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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 2050


Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (15:12): Mr Speaker, I think that the Prime Minister should stay to listen to this. I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the member for Warringah moving the following motion forthwith—That the Migration Legislation Amendment (Offshore Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2011 be brought on for debate and voted upon immediately.

Standing orders should be suspended because government has no higher duty than border protection and without this legislation this government has no policy whatsoever to protect our borders and to end the crisis on our borders that this government has brought about.

Yesterday the Prime Minister declared that she was going to make a new start. Freed from all the undermining that she thinks she has been subjected to, she was going to get on with the job. She was going to get on with it and she was going to start. Prime Minister, you might as well start by implementing your border protection policy by bringing this legislation on now. Do not be scared of this parliament, Prime Minister. Do not be scared of your own bill; bring it on now. That is what the Prime Minister should do. Standing orders must be suspended because the Prime Minister said yesterday, when she had just got two-thirds support in her caucus:

On occasions like this people often ask you how you feel. Well I can tell you how I feel today, I feel impatient.

We are impatient, too. We are impatient to see a bit of action from this Prime Minister. We are impatient—and this is why standing orders must be suspended—to see the government finally bring on its own legislation.

What is this Prime Minister frightened of? What is she scared of? She should not be scared—and this is why standing orders should be suspended—that she lacks the numbers in the parliament. Since the end of last year, this government does have—at least it should have under normal circumstances—a majority in this parliament. There should be no reason for the government to be frightened now of bringing on the legislation that it was frightened of bringing on before the change to the speakership last year. So I say to the Prime Minister: 'Don't be scared of bringing on your bill. Bring it on now.' But maybe—and this is why this should be tested in the parliament; this is why standing orders should be suspended—the Prime Minister is not so sure about her numbers in this parliament, because we know that the former foreign minister, the member for Griffith, does not like the Malaysian people swap. He has told us he does not like it. He has told us that it was not his policy; that he was not consulted about it; that it was a walk on the wild side. That is why standing orders should be suspended. Why should the member for Griffith not like the Malaysian people swap? Because it is a dud deal for Australia as well as being a cruel deal for boat people.

Standing orders must be suspended so that we can put to the test whether this government really does have the support in this chamber that the Prime Minister claims. The member for Griffith is now on the back bench. We know that the member for Griffith said yesterday that he was going to be totally loyal to the Prime Minister. Well, let us see just how loyal the former Prime Minister, the former foreign minister, will be to the Prime Minister or, alternatively, to his conscience and his principles. That is why standing orders must be suspended. Is this Prime Minister prepared to test her majority on the floor of the parliament? Is she prepared to test the loyalty of the member for Griffith? She should be. If she is impatient to get things done, if she is impatient to get on with the job, if she wants to make a new start, I am suspending standing orders to give her that chance.

Surely, there could be no more important matter before this parliament than border protection. Standing orders must be suspended to enable the Prime Minister to put in place what she says is her policy. It might not be the member for Griffith's policy. Let us see just what the member for Griffith wants to do. If the Prime Minister is anxious that she might lose a few votes from her own side, that some members on her own side might be true to the principles that they have long upheld, that they might be true to their conscience, she can declare this legislation a matter of confidence. That is what she can do.

Standing orders must be suspended because this Prime Minister has been saying that she has been 'ringingly' re-endorsed. Let us see how ringing that re-endorsement has been. She should put this legislation before the parliament. I am giving her the chance to do so by moving this suspension of standing orders and then we will find out just how much confidence this parliament really does have in this Prime Minister. I do not think she is up to it. I do not think she is sufficiently confident in her support on the crossbenches, on her own back benches, to actually allow this to go forward.

The Prime Minister has said repeatedly in this House—and this is why standing orders should be suspended: to test the good faith of this Prime Minister—that the amendments to the Migration Act are a matter of urgency. I quote the Prime Minister on 22 September:

The nation's interest today requires that we deal expeditiously with the migration amendments.

Well, five months have gone by. What has she been doing? She has just been re-endorsed. She no longer has the albatross of the foreign minister around her neck. What is her excuse? There is no excuse, other than the fact that this is a Prime Minister who is not prepared to test her prime ministership on the floor of this parliament. There is no excuse.

The Prime Minister has said repeatedly that she wants every single member of this place to come into the parliament and record their vote. That would be nice, wouldn't it? But she cannot stop the boats. She just wants to stop the votes. I say that a Prime Minister who cannot stop the boats should at least allow this place to vote—allow us a vote on the legislation that she has said repeatedly is so vital for the government's policy. We all know that in the absence of the Malaysian people swap, this government has no policy whatsoever to deal with the surge of boats. She might explain that when standing orders are suspended. There is no policy because the Prime Minister is too proud to admit that her policy has failed. But there is a policy that we know will work, because it has worked in the past. This is why standing orders should be suspended so that one policy can be pitted against another. We know that there is a policy that works. It involves Nauru, temporary protection visas and turning boats around where it is safe to do so. I stress 'turning boats around where it is safe to do so'.

If there was one thing that underlined this Prime Minister's unfitness for office, this Prime Minister's lack of magnanimity and decency, it was the repeated assertions in this chamber today that this opposition wants to put the lives of our servicemen at risk. What a foul and disgraceful smear and slur utterly unworthy of the Prime Minister of this country. I say lots of things about this Prime Minister but I do not accuse her of bad faith and I do not accuse her of deliberately wanting to put people's lives at risk, and she should not stoop so low as to make a foul accusation like that. We have heard a lot of brave words from this Prime Minister since the caucus meeting yesterday. Unless we see some serious action, those words will be exposed as just bluster by a bad Prime Minister getting worse, by a failing Prime Minister who knows in her heart that she is unworthy of the high office which she temporarily occupies. Standing orders must be suspended. We must have the vote and this Prime Minister should not be frightened of putting her policy to the test in this parliament.

The SPEAKER: Is the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition seconded?