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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 8533


Mr MITCHELL (McEwen) (17:19): I have read the report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers from cover to cover. I have had a look at what Mr Houston has said in his report and I have seen what has happened here. It was this government that appointed the expert panel, because we believed that due to the pig-headedness of other people we could not get a reasonable, fair and intelligent solution. We also said that we would support the recommendations of Mr Houston and the rest of the panel, and that is exactly what we have done. What we have seen today as a result is a hysterical carry-on from those opposite, saying, 'We've won!' That is absolute rubbish. They have not won; no-one has really 'won'. We all have to sit here and chew a little bit of broken glass and accept some modifications to what we believe in to actually get a solution that saves lives. Having read through the report, I think they have done a pretty good job and they have got it right.

Earlier today, I listened to the gloating from the Leader of the Opposition, carrying on like he had won Tattslotto, because he believed he got everything he wanted. It reminded me of a long time ago, when I was down at the shop, and this bloke walked up to me and said, 'You know, that Abbott's a show bag: he's overpriced and full of crap.' I think today—

Mr Tony Smith: Madam Deputy Speaker, on a point of order—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Grierson ): I would caution the member, and we will address members by their correct titles, thank you.

Mr MITCHELL: I shall.

Mr Tony Smith: We will do a bit better than that, Madam Deputy Speaker—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: And I will ask him to withdraw.

Mr Tony Smith: Absolutely.

Mr MITCHELL: I withdraw 'Mr Abbott'. I will say 'the Leader of the—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I think you will just withdraw unconditionally.

Mr MITCHELL: I withdraw the whole statement. But I will say that I think the gentleman that spoke to me was wrong, because I do not think that there are any circumstances in which you could say the Leader of the Opposition was overpriced. I think he is cheap, as cheap as you can get. That is what we have seen in the carry-on today, in the way that he believes, 'We've got success. We've got Nauru.' Now, Nauru in its Pacific solution form was nothing like what is being proposed by the expert panel—nothing like it at all. If anyone on the other side had actually taken the time to read the report, they would know that what the expert panel have recommended is nothing like the old Nauru proposal. It is not a detention centre. In fact, Mr Aristotle said on Lateline that what is proposed is a very different arrangement from the Pacific solution. He said:

… we're not recommending opening detention centres.

That is what he said, but if you listen to those opposite, that is not what they want to hear. They make up things out of the report. They must have their own copy of the report, a copy they have written. If you compare what they are saying with what is written in this report, it does not make sense. The report says that people would not be in arbitrary detention, that they would have to return to the accommodation in the evenings but that it is not intended any of the proposed transfer facilities would be detention centres. That is very important.

The Nauru and Papua New Guinea solution is a short-term arrangement. This is about getting something to happen quickly to stop people risking their lives on unseaworthy boats coming to this country. The panel also says we should get on with the Malaysian solution. If you listen to those opposite, you would know that they said Malaysia was redlighted. That is factually incorrect. I challenge those on the other side to show where in the report it says that. It does not say that; it says that that is a medium-term solution, that we have to strengthen what we have, to get it all in place with a proper legal framework around it. At the end of the day, the goal has to be a regional solution. It is something we do not attack on our own; it is something for which we need the support of our neighbours. That is pretty much what the report says because the most important priority is to prevent people risking their lives to come here.

We also hear those on the other side carry on about the TPVs, as though they are the great white hope of the world. Nothing in the report talks about TPVs because we know that they did not work. They encouraged women and children to get on boats and that was evident throughout the years. We also heard about how Howard's Pacific solution ended boat arrivals. I am sure George Bush would have coughed into his coffee if he had heard that this morning because it was the effort of NATO and other countries around the world to bring stability to regions affected by wars that slowed the process down. That of course all gets forgotten in the cheap little play that happens when those on the other side pretend they have some big win out of nothing.

No-one wins with this sort of stuff. We have to get on with the job. The Prime Minister said that and Minister for Immigration and Citizenship has said we have to get a result. We put up the option of offshore processing in Nauru and Papua New Guinea a while ago but it was not backed by the stubbornness of the opposition, who do not really care what happens to people. For them, it is just a game to try to gain a vote

Ms Julie Bishop: Don't be disgusting!

Mr MITCHELL: It is a fact. How many members of the opposition formed a committee to work together to find a solution? Two, and what happened to those two? You physically restrained one from crossing the floor. This is not about you trying to find a solution; this is about you trying to find votes. For the last hour we have heard rubbish about this. There are 40 members who wish to speak on this legislation. This is just a gloat. Not one speaker has been able to, nor will they be able to point to where the report says that what they said is right. I am happy to give the next speaker a copy of the report, to read what it says.

We hear about turning back the boats. The Leader of the Opposition says, 'I don't care what the leader of Indonesia says; 'I'm going to turn back the boats,' knowing full well he cannot do it. That is right: you shake your head and say no because he cannot do it. The Leader of the Opposition is going to Indonesia, one of our closest neighbours and trading partners, to say, 'I don't care what you say; I'm going to turn the boats back.' That is an absolute furphy. The Navy have said no, the former Chief of the Defence Force has said no, but you get up and say, 'We can do that. We are so much better than the rest of the world, those of us in the Liberal opposition.' Even though the Indonesian government reiterated on 10 July that they would not permit boats containing asylum seekers to be turned around, Tony Abbott says the coalition government will turn them back without permission.

Mr Tony Smith: You are cheaper than a $2 shop.

Mr MITCHELL: If you want to talk about cheap, talk about your politics. The cheapness we have to put up with today is listening to what comes from those opposite, which means nothing. We know that national policy settings alone cannot resolve the challenges the world faces in relation to asylum seekers. We know that that cannot be done. That is why the report strongly talks about a regional framework, as agreed at the fourth Bali Regional Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crimes held in March 2011. The regional framework provides a very productive way forward and the principles that underline the RCF and the guidance provided for practical arrangements developed in it are further explored when you look through attachment No. 6 to the report.

The report is very comprehensive in the way it deals with all the issues at hand, understanding what goes on. You have a collective group of people who are very intelligent and level-headed. They are not political. They are out there to do a job. They have done a fantastic job in the six weeks since parliament came to a grinding halt on this issue. We should wholeheartedly support the recommendations in the report, to get on with something and to deliver it straight away, to find some way to get through this and, going back to what I said, to stop people getting on to boats to risk their lives to come to this country.

How we can do this is something we should all be working at, as genuine human beings. Increasing our humanitarian intake to 20,000 places per annum with a minimum of 12,000 places for the refugee component of the program is a big step going forward. We on this side support 20,000 places—it is in our platform. We also support the move to get to 27,000 places in five years. This problem is not Australia's alone. There are millions of displaced people around the world who fear persecution and are not able to return to their homelands. Our country is a safe haven where they can enjoy a life with opportunities and freedom. We should wholeheartedly support this report. We should not pontificate, wasting time for the next four or five hours. We should get on with the job. We should agree to the amendments put forward by the minister to get this solution under way as quickly as possible.