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Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Page: 8670


Mrs ANDREWS ( McPherson ) ( 10:58 ): I rise also to speak on the Migration Legislation Amendment (Offshore Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2011 . The coalition has consistently supported good policy and opposed the bad. What I want to see is good policy on border protection. Sadly and tragically, that has been lacking from this government. The coalition's border protection policy has three core elements, which are: firstly, turning back boats, a straightforward and uncompromising deterrent, where circumstances permit; secondly, processing offshore in a third country, namely Nauru; and, thirdly, providing temporary protection visas to illegal arrivals who are found to be genuine refugees.

Since the Pacific solution was abolished by the Labor government, a series of policy failures have been witnessed by the Australian people. These failures have resulted in approximately 22,000 illegal arrivals on about 400 boats as well as—tragically—almost 1,000 deaths.

The Howard government was committed to strong border protection policies, and today the coalition continues this important commitment. Former Prime Minister John Howard boldly and rightly stated, 'We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.' That declaration best encapsulates the policies we must pursue to ensure that our borders are kept strong. The Pacific solution worked and was clearly demonstrated to be effective in stopping the people-smuggling trade. But the Labor government pursued an agenda that has been proven not to work, and they doggedly stuck to that agenda even when it was beyond doubt that their policies had failed. Offshore processing centres on Nauru and Manus Island worked; it was clearly demonstrated that offshore processing worked as a deterrent. Offshore processing should never have been abolished, and it should be reintroduced. Another key part of the Howard government's success on border protection measures was the introduction of temporary protection visas. But in 2008 the Rudd government ended the temporary protection visa system, and this has led to a significant increase in the number of boat arrivals. Temporary protection visas worked, and they provided an effective deterrent to unauthorised boat arrivals. That is why the coalition remains committed to reintroducing temporary protection visas.

For the last four years the Prime Minister has refused to listen to the opposition on border protection. It was not until the Prime Minister of Australia contracted out her job to a committee led by Angus Houston that a common-sense approach to border protection was established. The committee's report substantially endorses the coalition's rational approach to border protection. It makes 22 recommendations, including: offshore pro­cessing in Nauru and on Manus Island; the introduction of legislation to the parliament to allow processing of illegal boat arrivals in designated countries and reserving to the parliament the provision to allow or disallow the legislative instrument that designates those countries; prohibiting family reunion through Australia's humanitarian program for people arriving by boat and instead making boat arrivals apply for family reunion through the family stream of the migration program; and the finding that turning back irregular maritime arrivals can be operationally achieved and can constitute an effective deterrent to people-smuggling ventures. These recommendations are effectively the same as those in the opposition's bill, and we therefore support the report.

For four years the Prime Minister said that offshore processing at Nauru would not work. For four years Australia's borders have suffered and been weakened. For four years Australia's reputation has been tarnished. The people-smuggling business has grown out of control. All of this has occurred because the Prime Minister has been too stubborn to admit that Labor got it wrong. The stubbornness that rejected Nauru is the same logic that is still rejecting other proven policies. To the Prime Minister I say: pride comes before a fall. Too much has been lost over the last four years, and Australians have every right to continue to question the judgement of a Prime Minister who is continually getting it so wrong.

The coalition has consistently supported good, strong policy, and offshore processing on Nauru has been part of a strong border protection policy that has been proven to work. Reopening the processing centre on Nauru is not the entire solution to stopping the boats and securing our borders, but it is an integral part of our plan to break the chain in illegal migration. Previously on Nauru the coalition was able to effectively ensure the welfare, support, processing and protection of every person through to the time of their departure. I support the reopening of the processing centres on Nauru and Manus Island, and I support the bill as amended.