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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 8547

Mr HAASE (Durack) (18:21): I rise this evening to point out a few home truths to the government, as if it were the very first time. I do so because I have heard today this afternoon so many statements—so many earnest statements—that appear to me not to reflect the truth. I expect the blame game to be played severely. I expect those opposite to pass the buck when it comes to responsibility. I expect honest policy change.

What I do not expect to hear is absolute denial of responsibility for any of the busted policy that we see presently in place in relation to border protection.

In 2008 a good policy that provided good, solid border protection, prevented people smugglers from plying their evil trade and prevented people from risking their lives at sea in leaky boats was absolutely trashed, with great confidence and satisfaction, by our present Prime Minister. She claimed, gloriously, to have succeeded in one of her great desires: to remove that policy. When as a result the great influx of boats started, we were told by the then Prime Minister that this was because of increased push factors and had nothing to do with the policy change. We were told that it was due to circumstances in war zones. No-one at the time would accept the fact that it was to do with the renewed pull factor—the 'come on down' signs exhibited on the beaches of northern Australia—because the policy had been changed.

Today, all I have heard is denial, denial that it is the fault of any member of the government that the policy was changed and denial of the fact that this solution was proposed by the opposition time and time again. Even if a member of the government were to say for a moment that the policy reversal was enacted to appease and capture the Greens vote, I would accept that as a partial apology for policy reversal. But we get denial and nothing but denial from this government; it is everyone else's fault and they are not to blame. We the opposition are expected to carry the responsibility. Rusted-on Labor voters in the seat of Durack say to me, 'Mr Haase, why haven't you got rid of that lazy useless government that keeps on bringing in policies that cannot provide border protection for this nation?' Am I now to assume responsibility for the policies of the government? Is this how crazy this government's policies have become? Am I as a member of the opposition suddenly expected to be apologetic for government policy? I really do not get it.

I am not prepared to stand silent while we have a government continually denying that the true fault for this great tragedy, this great loss of life and the arrival of so many people at great expense to Australian taxpayers lies with the government. It is the fault primarily of the existing Prime Minister. An apology to the nation would be well deserved and much appreciated. A reduction in the cost to the Australian taxpayer would be greatly deserved and much appreciated.

The plan that has been adopted today, because of the good work that was done by Mr Houston and his group, is to be commended. But it is nothing new. It defies belief that this government says, as though it were a bolt from the blue, that it has this wonderful idea of starting overseas processing in Nauru. How can we see so many supposedly intelligent people stand up with hand on heart and say, 'This is a great realisation handed down by a very courageous group, and now we will adopt the policy,' as though it were new? It is a policy that in the main was trashed four years ago by this very government. Since then it has blamed everyone else for the failure of that policy change. Now, when it sees a light, it says that that light came from a source other than the recommendations of this opposition. It came from us as a recommendation because we knew it worked. We put it in place, and we reduced the steady flow of boats and illegal arrivals to just three in a period of 2½ to three years. You could reasonably declare that the flow of illegal boat arrivals had been stopped and would have been stopped permanently. The changes made by this government at the behest of this Prime Minister took a fixed solution and turned it into a problem, a problem that cost the Australian taxpayer billions of dollars.

There is nothing new to add to this debate. It has all been said before. I have taken up enough of the time of this House. Other speakers wish to comment on the Migration Legislation Amendment (Offshore Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2011 before the debate is shut down by the government. I thank the House for its time.