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Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Page: 8671


Mr SCHULTZ (Hume) (11:04): I rise to speak on the Migration Legislation Amendment (Offshore Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2011. This bill should have been passed at the last parliamentary sitting but, unfortunately, because of vanity and arrogance, that did not occur.

The issuing of the recommendations in the Houston report on illegal boat arrivals was preceded by incompetence, by tokenistic expressions of loyalty to our country and its people and by the government's trashing of its obligation to protect our borders from illegal breaches by unauthorised people. All of this resulted in the shutdown of what was once a controlled, respected and professional immigration process. The long-accepted statement by PM John Howard that 'we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come' was contemptuously ignored and discarded until the humiliating acknowledgement by the Prime Minister's expert panel that the Prime Minister was wrong and the coalition policy was right.

If Prime Minister Julia Gillard had not been so stubborn, the human tragedy and cost of Labor's failed border protection policies could have been avoided, and the millions of dollars in taxpayers' funds which have been wasted on those policies could instead have been appropriately used on much-needed projects to benefit all Australians. For four years Prime Minister Gillard and her government had said that offshore processing at Nauru would not work. For four years Australia's borders had been weak, lives had been lost at sea, Australia's reputation with its neighbours had been tarnished, costs had blown out and people smuggling had flourished. All this happened because Prime Minister Gillard was too stubborn to admit that Labor had got it wrong.

I acquaint the House with a book that I read during the last sitting break. It was written, poignantly, about the Kokoda Track. It was centred around the very significant sacrifices made by young men from all walks of life. They were young Australians who died in very tragic, debilitating and horrifying circumstances on the Kokoda Track in their attempt to protect this great country of ours from people who would, but for their sacrifice, have invaded the country.

I feel passionate about that and I become emotionally involved because those young Australians did it to protect our borders. In today's day and age, the government should acknowledge and protect the borders around this great country of ours on behalf of the Australian people for whom they made their sacrifice.

For four years, the current Labor government have been too stubborn to admit they got it wrong. The report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers gave a green light for Nauru, a red light for the Malaysia people swap and a rejection of the Prime Minister's rhetoric on Nauru. Australians have to wonder why this did not happen years ago—why the pretext that Nauru would not work, why the wild claims it would cost billions to reopen and why the stubbornness that has done so much damage to Australia and its people? Too much has been lost over the past four years and Australians have every right to continue to question the judgment of a Prime Minister who continually gets it wrong. The stubbornness that rejected Nauru for years is the same stubbornness that is still rejecting other proven policies, such as temporary protection visas and turning the boats around. Prime Minister Gillard was proved wrong on Nauru and she is still wrong on TPVs and turning the boats around.

At the weekend, I spoke to a number of my constituents who came out here in the 1950s and the 1960s under the orderly immigration process operated by the Australian government. They are absolutely astounded and angry that people coming into the country illegally through the backdoor are being treated with kid gloves. When they came to this country, they accepted the detention process to which they were subjected. They got on with their lives, made a contribution to this country and became very successful and loyal citizens of Australia.

The coalition has consistently argued for proven policies that work together to strengthen Australia. The coalition's policies on borders have been proven to work. The people smugglers' business model needs to be broken. These policies work together and, when combined, entirely destroy the people-smuggler process. The coalition understands, as do the majority of Australians, that the Howard government solutions worked then and will work now. We will reintroduce offshore processing on Nauru when we are elected at the next election. Offshore processing will guarantee that the rights of asylum seekers are protected. We will return to a system of temporary protection visas because people will be safe but not granted permanent residency with all the benefits that go with it unless they pass all of the tests which ensure they are not nor will be a threat to this country.

We know there can be circumstances where boats can be turned back safely, as Sri Lankan and Indonesian authorities have shown. The coalition has constantly and consistently supported good policy and opposed bad policy. The coalition will support the legislation to reopen Nauru. Offshore processing at Nauru has been part of the coalition's border protection policy for over a decade. Reopening Nauru is not the entire solution to stopping the boats, but it is a part of our plan to stop the boats altogether. I support this legislation because the government has finally succumbed to pressure from the Australian people, and to pressure on Labor MPs out in their constituencies, and has taken the advice of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers to return to offshore processing, which is contained in the bill. When we get into government we will make sure that this legislation is amended to include the processes to finalise the coalition policy for the Australian people.