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Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Page: 8650


Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (Mackellar) (09:28): I rise to address the Migration Legislation Amendment (Offshore Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2011 and the amendments moved both by the government and by the opposition. From the outset, we have to put into context what this debate about offshore processing of illegal boat arrivals is really all about. It is a question of believing in the nation-state. The nation-state says that you believe you protect your borders and, in the words of John Howard, you say who will come to this country and the manner in which they will come. That was always the basis upon which the Pacific solution of the Howard government was developed. It was designed specifically to say that we will protect the integrity of our nation and our shores and determine who comes to this country and how. When the debate ensued after the Pacific solution was introduced—which was totally effective, because it did stop people getting on boats—the question of placing asylum seekers' lives at risk was very much part of that debate and was raised by us as part and parcel of the reason we needed that effective solution.

When the abuse did indeed come to the member for Berowra it was full of bile, it was full of malice and it at no stage had the interest of the Australian nation at heart. The present Prime Minister infamously said then, 'Another boat arrival is another policy failure'. All of her policies on this issue have been a failure. The policy initiatives of the former Prime Minister Mr Rudd were equally a failure. He dismantled the effective policy that was in place and he did it because he was caving in to the left, who do not believe in the nation-state.

And the Greens not only do not believe in the nation-state but also believe in totally open borders: whoever can come here should be able to stay. There are members of the Labor Party who have a similar belief. It is simply a statement of fact that they do not believe in the nation-state. We well remember the former Senator Brown saying in one of his farewell speeches: 'Fellow earthlings, we believe in world government. We abrogate the rights of nations to rule themselves.'

It is important that, in the context in which this debate has taken place, the opposition has stayed firm—on every occasion—to the policy that was introduced by the Howard government: the Pacific solution. It has fundamental tenets in addition to enabling Nauru and Manus Island to be reinstated. It is essential that we again have temporary protection visas. Temporary protection visas take the sugar off the table. This was the term used by the Indonesian government to say that we should act to take incentives away from the trade for people being smuggled or brought illegally to Australia.

Temporary protection visas importantly mean that there is no family reunion, which explains why we had boatload after boatload of single males coming to this country, who were put up in rented houses and given benefits. Tens of thousands of Australians who are on waiting lists for public housing do not get the same consideration. The blow-out in expenditure of something like $4.7 billion is money that could have gone toward such things as the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It could have gone towards the Commonwealth's honouring some of its obligations, if it is interested in the Gonski scheme. It could have gone towards a whole lot of policies. Instead, the stubbornness of the Prime Minister in refusing to reinstate an effective policy has meant a waste of money—to the disadvantage of the Australian people. Twenty-two thousand people have come since that policy failure. And there have been those dreadful deaths.

In debating this bill the coalition is saying that we support the legislation because it will again allow Nauru and Manus Island to be designated countries where asylum seekers can be taken for offshore processing. It is interesting to note that the mechanism used by the government to bring this about is to say that there will be a legislative instrument made, which will list a country—one country—per legislative instrument. It must then lie on the table, or be introduced to the parliament, for five sitting days before it becomes effective. Currently, the way subordinate legislation works, it becomes effective the moment it is signed. If it is subsequently challenged with a disallowance motion it becomes void. The problem here is that there could have been an instrument made, and many boat arrivals, and the fact that it became void subsequently would not affect the fact that they were already here. This is a new mechanism that the government has decided to use rather than write into the legislation that Nauru and Manus Island shall be permitted, as designated countries, for offshore processing of illegal arrivals or asylum seekers.

This is just stage 1 of reintroducing the successful policy of the Howard government. It is valid to make the point that the Prime Minister showed sheer stubbornness by playing politics continually through this. She was first playing with the idea of Timor-Leste, then playing with the idea of Malaysia. The High Court, in its judgment, clearly said that the minister for immigration was unable to make the declaration that the human rights of people who were sent there in this proposed disgusting trade in human flesh would be protected. The High Court said, 'You are incapable of making that judgment on the evidence available.' That responsibility rests fairly and squarely with the minister for immigration. It was his making a statement, which he clearly was unable to do, that caused the failure of that policy. Again, the Prime Minister was aiding and abetting.

The Prime Minister then needed a mechanism. She needed some way to do a backflip in order to agree with the policy statement forwarded by the coalition. She has done that by outsourcing government policy to a committee of three. It came back with a statement that using Nauru and Manus Island would be a sensible way to go, that Malaysia was not possible. In soft language it said that it needed an enormous amount of additional work. Temporary protection visas got a tick—but have a bit of fuzz around them. The important thing is, from the coalition's point of view—and from the Australian people's point of view—that the whole system needs to be completed.

There need to be temporary protection visas and there needs to be an instruction to the Northern Command to commence turning back boats where it is safe to do so. The Houston committee would know—and, as former head of the Australian Defence Force, Air Marshal Houston, would know—of the capacity for the Navy to turn back boats safely when required to do so.

It is important that everybody realise that in our supporting this legislation we are not walking away from the rest of our policy. We are standing up for our whole policy and we are saying to the government, 'You have used a mechanism by which you can agree on this point.' Can I say to you: try and find another mechanism so you can agree to the rest of it and introduce a sensible policy which will then again truly stop the boats and reinstate a determination to protect this nation's borders and say to the Australian people that we do believe in the nation state of Australia and we are not prepared to see it have its power to secure its borders treated in a way you, the government, have done previously.