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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 8578


Dr JENSEN (Tangney) (20:37): Sometimes I think my parliamentary colleagues love the sound of their own voices more than they love the voice of the people. So let me speak on behalf my constituents in Tangney. We are over it. We are over the blame game. We are over endless committees and reports. We are over guidelines and recommendations and investigations and permutations. We are over it. We want action. We want action not for selfish reasons—though the government would like to paint that picture. We want action for selfless reasons. When I met with the Applecross ladies, they selflessly implored that we stop the boats. When I met with Martin of Attadale, he implored that we stop the boats. When I meet with a majority of my constituents they implore that we stop the boats.

The present policy is not fair, is not safe and is not sustainable. The coalition have a plan. We offer a holistic policy platform that will work—because it has before. From the recommendations of the expert panel, the Prime Minister and her government have endorsed one pillar of the coalition's comprehensive plan to stop the boats. This token gesture to an electorate demanding a solution will do little to fix this mess of this government's own creation. Prime Minister, real leadership requires more than just idle talk. The current state of our immigration system is unacceptable. We must find a better way. The coalition has demonstrated in government the ideas and the energy to stop the boats. We have done it, and we will do it again. That is a promise. An immediate return to the proven policies of the Howard government, including temporary protections visas, offshore processing and the option of turning boats around when safe to do so, will stop the boats and protect our borders.

The numbers do not lie. Under the Howard government, between 2002 and 2007, only 10 illegal boats, with fewer than 250 people, arrived in Australia. The Prime Minister, in her short term—742 days if you include the term of the previous Prime Minister—has seen approximately 1,000 deaths. More than 230 boats, with more than 5,100 passengers, have been delivered in those 742 days.

On coming to government, Labor abolished temporary protection visas, closed the detention facilities on Nauru, abolished universal offshore processing and detention of all illegal boat arrivals, and has not turned back boats where circumstances safely allowed. This destroyed a framework of policies that had worked, that had saved lives and that had secured the borders of Australia. Labor gave the people smugglers a product to sell—permanent residency in Australia. Health and education budgets are already stretched, teachers and nurses are under pressure, infrastructure is jammed and the police have too much on their plate. From an economic perspective alone, Labor's border protection blow-out of $1.7 billion, including an increase for 2012-13 of $424 million on last year's budget, will add to our growing debt and cost taxpayers an extra $1.1 million per day. This adds unnecessary pressure to the provision of services by government.

We are a generous and welcoming nation—and criminal people smugglers take advantage of our system for that very reason. Instead of restoring the proven measures of the coalition, Labor embraced the Greens policy of community release and bridging visas, including their new granny flat solution. These policies have seen illegal boat arrivals surge to even higher levels. Labor rolled out the red carpet with welcome baskets prepared. The message to you from Tangney, Prime Minister, is this: we are over the soft touch; it is time for the iron fist. It is time for the coalition's comprehensive policy.

A key pillar of a strong immigration and border protection system is the ability of a government to engage productively and diplomatically with our sovereign neighbours. Labor's handling of the live cattle issue is illustrative of their inability to engage with our nearest neighbour, Indonesia. Foreign diplomacy is a key to the success of any immigration policy—whether it be the policy of the coalition or of the Labor Party. Even elementary study of Labor's negotiations with Indonesia, or lack thereof, can identify cultural insensitivity and diplomatic ignorance. No wonder we find it difficult to negotiate on this issue and difficult to find a resolution that limits boats disembarking their passengers on our shores.

So here we are—another debate on an issue that has a clear solution. Yet again, in question time, we saw the government seek to blame others for their own border protection and budget failures. I commend the government for the amendment which has been negotiated between the member for Cook and the minister. But this minor capitulation still leaves us with a broken immigration system—deaths at sea, a tide of boats still flowing to Australia and an electorate which is growing tired of, and angry at, the inaction of an incompetent government. The same stubbornness which rejected Nauru for years is the same stubbornness which is still rejecting other proven policies, such as TPVs and turning the boats around.

The coalition has consistently supported good policy. The coalition will restore the strong border protection regime that Labor abandoned. We will reintroduce offshore processing of illegal boat arrivals as part of a series of measures to stop boats and protect our borders. In government, the coalition has demonstrated that it has the resolve, policies and commitment required to stop the boats. These policies saved lives and protected the fairness and integrity of our immigration system. We will do it again.

Offshore processing in Nauru has been part of the coalition's border protection policy for over a decade, but it is part of a bigger plan which must be reinstated in full in order to stop the boats and save lives. Getting on a boat is not an easy decision; it is not something which is decided upon overnight. Let us be sure of our decision. We stand always with the underdog and anyone in search of a fair go. The Malaysia solution—so-called—was merely an example of Australia losing control of the process. The difference that the Labor government does not seem to understand is that, with Nauru, even when it was not a signatory to the UN convention on refugees, we had control of the process. With Malaysia, we lack control of that process. But we do know this: every day we obfuscate, prevaricate and pontificate, people will sell themselves to board a boat for a land of sunshine and oranges.