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Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Page: 10206


Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (16:03): It is no wonder that the member for Cunningham does not want us to talk about this matter of public importance, because words can come back to bite you. Back in 2010, when she spoke in this place on the Anti-People Smuggling and Other Measures Bill, she was quick to praise the then Rudd government for the turnaround that it had made on the Howard government's people-smuggling laws and the framework we had put in place. She said that the point of this turnaround was to have a more humane framework for people who were seeking asylum and to take a much harsher position against those who were seeking to make profits from the exploitation of such people. That is what she said about the changes that her government made to the illegal immigration and border protection regime that the Howard government had in place. Look at where those changes have got us!

Protecting Australia's borders is one of the most fundamental roles that any government should play. It calls for strength and for resolve. It calls for a government to stand up for its people and protect their country. But what we have seen from this government is weakness and wavering. We have seen indecision and wringing of hands. The only resolve that we have seen from this government is an absolute commitment to shifting the blame, a strong commitment to doing anything but admitting that they got things wrong and a determined resolve to say anything other than make an apology for the damage, the waste and the deaths—how humane were they, member for Cunningham?—that resulted from their actions.

So averse to taking control was this government that they outsourced their responsibilities; they outsourced the responsibilities of the Prime Minister and of the immigration minister. 'It's too hard. We can't do it. It's too hard,' they said. Instead of reinstating border protection policies that were proven to work and instead of admitting that they tried to fix what was not broken to start with and that they had to go back to some of the coalition's original solutions, those so-called representatives opposite threw up their hands and outsourced their responsibilities to a committee.

But this is not the first time that this government has outsourced its job. When those opposite gleefully pulled down our border security policy amid all the backslapping and comments similar to those made by the member for Cunningham, they also outsourced the control of our borders. They outsourced the government's job, not to a committee but to some of the most disgusting and vilest creatures on this planet—the people smugglers. Let us be very clear about this. People smugglers are criminals who have sent hundreds of people to their deaths.

People smugglers are criminals who trade human lives for dollars. These are the people to whom the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments have outsourced control of our borders. The people smugglers are the ones who have been, and still are, in control of our borders. They are the ones who decide who comes to Australia and who does not. It is certainly not this government who are deciding that. The people smugglers are the ones who set the price. They control the market and they dictate how much it costs to risk your life on a boat journey to this, the promised land. And that price is high: thousands and thousands of dollars. The price is actually beyond the reach of most legitimate asylum seekers.

Again, let us be clear here. There is a difference between a genuine asylum seeker and an economic refugee. There is a difference between those fleeing persecution and those searching for an easier life. Even today, this government and those opposite refuse to use the term 'illegal immigrant'. Let us be clear on that point too. Australia has immigration laws. There are legal ways to enter the country, but there are also illegal ways. Paying $10,000 to one of the vile people-smuggling scum to get on a boat to go to Christmas Island is an illegal way of entering our nation. Many of the people on board these boats are not fleeing anything. They are not repelled; they are drawn. They are drawn to Australia and this soft-touch government and they are willing to travel through or over as many countries as it takes to get here.

Afghanistan is the place where many of them are coming from. If you look at an atlas, you can see that it is a landlocked country. Of all its bordering nations, Australia is not one—surprise, surprise. There are only two ways out of Afghanistan—by air or by land. If a genuine refugee flees from persecution in Afghanistan by land, the most likely, most direct route is by crossing the border into Pakistan, crossing the border into India, crossing the border into Bangladesh, crossing the border into Burma, crossing the border into Thailand or crossing the border into Malaysia. After travelling through all those countries—any number of which may have been a safe haven from persecution—it is still a boat journey or airfare to get to Indonesia. What is more likely is a flight out of Afghanistan. These people are not short of money. If they were, they could not pay the people smugglers. They could not pay for the airfare out of Afghanistan in the first place. But instead of flying to Australia, they get on a plane, with their passport, and fly to Indonesia. They wander down to a boat, dressed like they just walked off a street in inner city Melbourne, pay thousands of dollars to the people smuggler, jump on the boat, call Australia to come and rescue them and then throw their iPhone and passport overboard and wait.

This situation is a con and it should be viewed in the context of those genuine refugees we see on the news in refugee camps across the world, such as those in Africa, those who cannot afford to jump on a plane and fly to Indonesia, those who cannot afford to pay $10,000 to people smugglers, those who have had their homes burned, who have had their families killed and who cannot even afford to eat.

Australia is a lucky country. We are a generous country. We take our responsibility seriously. We have one of the largest refugee intakes of anywhere in the world. But because our Prime Minister and this government outsourced control of our borders to the people smugglers, those who are most in need are the least likely to receive assistance. The absolute flood of illegal immigrants taking advantage of this government's free water taxi service is a direct result of this government's failure to control our borders. Here's the thing about a border—if there's a great big hole in it, it is no longer a secure border.

What this government did was take down a three-panelled fence, which was the Howard government's border protection regime: (1) offshore processing in Nauru and Manus Island; (2) temporary protection visas, ensuring that if an illegal immigrant who entered here was actually found to be a genuine refugee, they would only be issued a temporary protection visa—that is, they would not stay here permanently but only until the threat in their country was gone—and they would not be entitled to permanent residency; and (3) turning back the boats where it was safe to do so. Then this government dismantled that three-panelled fence and wondered why the people smugglers were pushing through thousands of illegal immigrants. Then, when the committee that the Prime Minister and the immigration minister outsourced their jobs to told them to reinstate the fence, they reluctantly put up just one panel. They were dragged, kicking and screaming, to restore Nauru. That is one panel of the effective fence. Here is a lesson from fencing 101: one panel of a three-panelled fence will stop nothing.

The Howard government knew that it took more than one part of their solution to stop the boats. The coalition knows that it takes more than one part. Everyone knows it except those sitting opposite. You cannot build a rabbit-proof fence with one strand of wire. The Chinese did not build the Great Wall with a single stone. The Dutch did not hold back the sea by throwing in one shovelful of dirt and calling it a dyke. The dyke around Northern Australia sprung a leak under the Rudd government and now, under the Gillard government, it is a torrent; 10,000 illegal immigrants arrived by boat this year alone, with three boats in the past 24 hours. It is an absolute torrent of shame for this government, an embarrassment for this government, who says it has a plan to stop the boats. I say to the minister at the table, the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, that, unfortunately, it is the wrong boats; it is the legal fishing vessels that we have up in the Coral Sea that you want to stop, but you cannot bring yourself to stop the people-smuggling boats.

It is clear this government has outsourced complete control of the country to the Greens. It took five years of the coalition and most of Australia telling Labor their border policy would not work. But it only took a few days of the Greens jumping up and down about a trawler and this government toed the green line by moving to stop that boat. The only boats this government cares to stop are ones like that and legal fishing vessels up in the Coral Sea.

Outsourcing decision making to a committee is not governing. Outsourcing border control to people smugglers is not governing. Outsourcing policymaking to the Greens is not governing. This government has not only failed but has made itself redundant, and if you cannot govern if you are out of a job. (Time expired)