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Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Page: 8664

Mr ANDREWS (Menzies) (10:26): I rise to speak on the Migration Legislation Amendment (Offshore Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2011 and the amendments which have been moved to it. I want to place my remarks in the context of this broader debate because why we are discussing this bill today is because we have a government which four years ago took a solution and created a problem. Now four years later, after more than 20,000 illegal arrivals, after some 1,000 deaths at sea—and they are just the ones that we know of—and a cost blowout of $4.7 billion, a $4,700 million cost blowout, we are getting a partial reinstatement of the solution. This is being done without any apology to this place or the people of Australia and without any explanation as to why the policy failed. Let me remind the House that the Prime Minister is the very person who said about the Pacific solution that it was costly and unsustainable, who described it as a farce and said that it was an illusion, not a solution. So, without apology and without explanation, now that which was a farce in the Prime Minister's own previous words is now a solution to the problem. All this has been done with the same brazen hubris for which this Prime Minister and this government have become renowned.

I say it is a partial solution, and this goes to some of the amendments before the House. As speaker after speaker on the side of the parliament has pointed out, there was a suite of measures that were put in place by the Howard government in order to try and stem the flow of people arriving by leaky boat from overseas. Amongst those measures was not just the provision which is now being reinstated, namely to process people offshore at Nauru and Manus Islands, but also the temporary protection visas which the previous speaker mentioned in this debate. It was that suite of measures, not simply the overseas processing, which led to just a trickle of people coming by boat by the last year of the Howard government, the year in which I was the immigration minister. So the government is on notice in this debate that if this measure, this partial measure, does not succeed then it is to blame, it is responsible, because it has not been prepared to reinstate the entire solution.

The government that took the solution that was working, which had stopped the flow of boats to Australia, and all the dangers associated with that—it took that solution and created a problem—is now only partially reinstating the solution.

This exposes two things. The first is the total lack of evidence based policymaking by this government. Whether in relation to this matter before the House at the moment or to a range of other issues, this is a government that announces a policy proposal and then tries to find some evidence to back it up. The reality is that this is a government that is not engaged in proper evidence based policymaking over a whole range of issues, and this is just one example of that.

The second thing, which goes to the amendment moved by the opposition, is the hypocrisy on the left in Australia in relation to these matters. Whether we are talking about boat people, global warming, same-sex unions or a host of other issues, we have been lectured and hectored by the voices of the Left in the Australian media and elsewhere that only their version of morality is true and correct. And it has happened over and over again. They have made criticisms of the member for Berowra, Philip Ruddock, in relation to putting this policy in place in the first place—and generally of John Howard and the entire government. We were hectored day after day that somehow what we had done was immoral.

It was not just a disagreement in terms of what policy should be put in place, not just a disagreement about a particular policy prescription, but a view that this was in fact an immoral government led by an immoral Prime Minister with immoral ministers and immoral backbenchers. That is what we were told, day after day, by the Left in this country: that stopping the boats was immoral, as if there were no other moral principles in play. How about the moral principle in relation to exploiting people—of saying, 'We will take US$10,000 per head from you and put you on a leaky fishing boat that may or may not reach Christmas Island or Ashmore Reef'? What about the morality of that? No, there was nothing about that; that was not part of it.

What about the morality of putting people on a boat, knowing that the thing might leak somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean? What about the morality of that? No, there was nothing about that. This was simply one version of morality, which was preached day after day after day by the Left in Australia, as if their version of the world were the only version that is true. And if you disagree with them on this or the other matters I spoke about earlier, whether it be global warming, same-sex unions or whatever you want to add to that list—it is a long list, and I will not detain the House with the whole list—then you are a racist, or a bigot, or a homophobe, or a nationalist, or something else. The ad hominem personal attacks went on day after day after day.

I hear the deafening silence from the other side. At least the previous speaker, the member for Fremantle, had the decency, the integrity and the consistency to come in and voice her continuing concern, from her perspective. But where are all the other voices on the other side—those who lectured and hectored us? They are all gone, all disappeared, all silent. All have slunk back to their offices in this building without anything to say about this. This exposes the total hypocrisy of that left-wing attack over the last four, five, six or 10 years in Australia. Any time I hear someone from the Left, or from the other side, saying that policies that are put forward on the basis of evidence somehow make us racist or bigoted or nationalistic or whatever the latest attack is, then we can simply say: 'Remember Nauru. Remember the policy that you said was immoral. Remember the policy that you said was a farce. Remember the policy that you said was unsustainable. And now, brazenly, you are embracing it.'

This exposes, once and for all, the lack of character, the lack of evidence based policymaking and the total failure of the totalitarian impulse on the other side for their own view of the way in which this country should be run. The Australian people should never forget this incident—not simply because it is at least a partial putting back in place of a policy that worked, but because of the total exposure of the hypocrisy of the Left.