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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 8568

WYATT ROY (Longman) (20:03): I rise to speak to the Migration Legislation Amendment (Offshore Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2011—another bill in this place and another debate in a long line of debates for those opposite to finally come to their senses about Australia's border security. It has taken nearly five years for the Labor party to come full circle and finally acknowledge the truth about the policy direction Australia needs to take. Australians are rightly fed up with the current situation. It has been a long and difficult path for all members of this place to come to where we are today. Finally, we have seen the Labor party step down and accept that at least in part the coalition has consistently got it right on border security.

For the past 10 years the coalition has had a consistent policy on border security: put simply, processing in Nauru, temporary protection visas and turning boats around where it is safe to do so. Today, hopefully, in this parliament we will at least take the first step in restoring the coalition's successful border security policies with the implementation of processing in Nauru—a first vital step toward restoring the coalition's three pillars of border security. One out of three is undeniably a step in the right direction.

While the coalition has held these policies for 10 years, it has been difficult for the Labor party to hold a policy for 10 hours. The people of Australia have seen the very real impact of the lack of direction from those opposite. The failed policies in border security from this Labor government are costing Australians $1.1 million a day and billions of dollars overall of taxpayers' money and are still achieving nothing. Still people keep risking their lives on leaky boats in an attempt to make it to Australia. A total of 386 boats with 22,518 people—that we know of—have attempted to make the trip to Australia since Labor was elected in 2007. Compare that with four boats from the year before under a coalition government.

Since Labor has come to power, the Australian people have witnessed a complete inability of its government to manage our borders. First this government dismantled the effective Howard government Pacific solution, which was, according to the Labor minister at the time, one of his greatest pleasures in politics. Then we saw the Labor party flip-flop around on dealing with countries that were not signatories to the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

What we see today is the government finally coming to its senses. Why has it taken us so long to get here? There has been far too great a human toll and an expense to taxpayers to make it to this point. But finally today we have seen recognition that the Howard government's Pacific solution worked. It was ultimately a policy that saved lives, a policy that for years was attacked relentlessly by the Labor Party. The Prime Minister herself, when she was Labor's immigration spokesman, was against offshore processing and the Pacific solution. In 2003 she stated:

Labor will end the so-called Pacific solution—the processing and detaining of asylum seekers on Pacific Islands—because it is costly, unsustainable and wrong as a matter of principle.

In the time that the coalition has held a consistent policy, we have seen the Prime Minister and the Labor Party be against and for offshore processing and be against and for turning boats around. We have seen the Labor Party both support and oppose temporary protection visas. We have seen the Labor Party attempt to establish processing in East Timor but simply forget to call the right person. We have seen Labor try to establish the inhumane and ineffective Malaysian solution.

Throughout all of this time, a proven solution was there if the Labor Party had been able to put aside its pride and adopt the coalition's proven border security policies. Instead, since 2007 we have seen the arrival of 22,518 people on 386 boats. Just in the time that I have been in this parliament, since polling day of 2010, 15,169 people have arrived on 231 boats. Just in the last year, while the Labor Party has been clinging to the Malaysian solution and refusing to adopt the proven policies of the coalition, 11,000 asylum seekers have arrived and almost 300 people have drowned.

I note that, on his way to parliament this morning, the Minister for Home Affairs stated:

The fact is we’ve been fighting about this issue for too long. While politicians fight, people die. That’s not good enough. The people of Australia want us to fix this.

This is a rare instance when I agree with a Labor government minister. It should never have taken this long to be where we are today. The coalition has a proven track record on border security. This issue goes to the heart of this Labor government's judgement. The Labor Party has chosen cheap politics and political pride over real policy solutions. When I talk to locals in my community I get an instinctive and consistent response: 'Why doesn't the Labor party just do what John Howard did? That worked.'

Australians deserve a solution that is effective. Australians are concerned about the state of our borders. In my own electorate, nearly 3½ thousand people have contacted me directly to express their views about Australia's borders. Countless more have raised border protection and boat arrivals as key issues when they see me out and about in my electorate. Regardless of which side of the debate they sit on, they are passionate, and all of them want to see a good outcome.

What cannot be clearer is that fixing the mess we now find ourselves in is a priority and one that deserves our time in this place to debate. Debating these changes is not politicking; it is doing our job, a job that we were elected to do. We have a chance to get this right again, to stop the inhumane loss of life and to stop throwing good money after bad at failed policy solutions. We tried in June, without success. We on this side of the House demonstrated that we were prepared to work to find a solution for the benefit of Australia. Unfortunately, those opposite were not, and so the people of Australia have had to wait another two months for action.

The legislation before us today is a start. Our policy has consistently been the package of three things: temporary protection visas, turning boats around where it is safe to do so and Nauru. The expert panel has endorsed this policy and now, finally, this government has come to terms with what the coalition has been saying all along. Nauru will prove crucial in stopping the boats, but Nauru is just one-third of the effective solution that saw its proof under the Howard government. Temporary protection visas and turning boats around where it is safe to do so will send people smugglers a clear message.

We on this side of the House want to do what we were elected to do—that which is our role as the elected representatives of this country. However, I do not have the same confidence in those opposite, including the Prime Minister, who, having outsourced her job responsibility on these matters to a committee, absolved herself from making any politically difficult decisions or any common-sense decisions on this issue.

Today we see that those opposite have finally acknowledged that the coalition was indeed right all along. Our policy, which has been consistent for 10 years, was supported by the Houston report. Let us hope that those opposite can break with their tradition on this issue and stick with this policy for longer than 10 hours.