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Thursday, 12 May 2011
Page: 3901


Mr BRIGGS (Mayo) (17:46): I continue on this important issue that we were discussing in the House earlier today. The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship was here not long ago. It would have been good for the minister to continue the factional meeting with the member for Lindsay and listen to a bit more about just how much he is failing on his border protection policies. The member for Lindsay, the parliamentary secretary at the table, knows more about these failures than most because he did take some action about this prior to the last election with the famous Commander Bradbury incident up in Darwin. He has had a long interest in naval activities and went up to Darwin to see what our border command do and the good work that they do, because there is much they have to do under this government with so many boats—224 boats carrying more than 11,000 people arriving since they changed and softened the law in August 2008. I was reflecting upon it earlier in my remarks, that this is another example of the Labor Party being straddled on the fence of border protection policy, on one hand trying to act like they are tough with their so-called Malaysian solution and on the other hand trying to look like they are soft or humanitarian, trying to appeal to the left and trying to appeal to the right. You cannot sit on the fence on this issue; you need to have a clear and consistent policy if you want to have the right approach and you want to stop the people-smugglers' business.

This bill, as the shadow minister outlined quite rightly in his contribution in this debate, will add another product on the people-smugglers' shelf to sell. It will be another opportunity for them to try and attract clients, and these clients end up in centres in Australia like the Inverbrackie detention centre in my electorate, which is, as I said earlier, causing all sorts of pain to my community. On the weekend in the Sunday Mail newspaper, on 8 May, Brad Crouch, a high-quality journalist in Adelaide, reported some of the effects in the community, some of the claims that have been made by people within the community about what is going on in the centre. I think there will be more on this because this story has a lot to play out. The information that Brad Crouch received is similar to the information that is coming through my office. There are extremely serious concerns about the management of this system and the stress this system has put on the people involved. A particular case in point is that we are still unsure in South Australia, in Inverbrackie, what happens if a serious incident such as the incidents at Villawood, at Curtin and at Christmas Island occurs at Inverbrackie—exactly what the South Australian police, the police in the Adelaide Hills who are contacting me and others about this issue, will be able to do to ensure the safety of people inside the centre and people outside the facility as well.

It underlines very much the mismanagement of Australia's borders by this government. Some would say this government needs a little less conversation on this issue and a little more action, some serious action to address the genuine problems caused by their changes in August 2008 and changes like the one we see before this place today. This bill is so important to the government that they tabled it first in, I think, late 2009 or at some point in 2009—I saw it in the minister's speech. It did not get through before the 2010 election, so it sat on the table for a good six, eight or 12 months without going through. That is because it does not actually change anything. The minister has the ability to do what this bill seeks to codify. I for one cannot understand why the minister wants to take the power out of his own hands. To me it makes perfect sense that he should have it. It is a system that has worked well. The immigration department tells us there have not been any examples where it has not worked. So why are we having this debate on this bill? Why are we talking about this issue again? A little less conversation and a little more action would be a better way for this government to go about this issue. Rather than try and cover the holes in their border protection policy on a daily basis or cover the $1.75 billion blowout above last year's allocations in the budget because of their failure to manage this issue properly, they should do what the coalition suggests. They should contact the president of Nauru, they should reopen the Nauru centre and they should reintroduce the TPVs. They should take the actions that we suggest.

Members opposite are happy to say this to us privately, that this is killing them in the electorate because people have lost trust with the way they manage the system. The building the detention centre revolution is going to unused army barracks near you. Tasmania is the latest place to receive one of these capital works upgrades. We have had one at Inverbrackie, there is one at Northam in Western Australia, there is one at Curtin, and any unused Defence space around the country will be used, because this government has got a huge problem on its hands. It has changed the law and it has put the people smugglers back in business. This bill will just be another product, and that is why we will oppose this bill. This bill is an unnecessary way forward. It takes a power that the minister currently has out of his hands. It does not introduce any new protections against people in these situations. All it does is codify what the minister can currently do. It seems to me that the only justification that the minister has for that is to somehow quicken the process or add to the process. That is a very flimsy justification given the more serious issues that he should be, or could be, addressing to reassure communities like mine that there is some long-term plan to fix this issue, to take some genuine action on this issue—less conversation, genuine action—to stop the flow of boats coming, such as the 224 boats that have come since August 2008.

This is a mistaken bill that should not be debated in a week when we have seen a $2 billion attack on middle Australia in the budget to pay for the nearly $2 billion blow-out in the border protection policy. It is a shame that this minister has to deal with this issue. He is a reasonable person, he has the best intentions; he just has a Prime Minister who does not know how to take the genuine action that she should take to address what is a serious issue. It is a serious issue which is causing a great deal of pain in my community, in the community of Northam and in communities in Tasmania, as was reported recently in a national newspaper when the new centre there was announced.

This bill should not be debated. The bill that we should be debating is the reintroduction of the solutions that former Prime Minister Howard came up with to deal with this issue. The government came into power in 2008 and in trying to find a solution caused a problem. It should undo that problem by redoing the solution that was put in place by the Howard government. We will oppose this bill. It is unnecessary. The issues that should be dealt with are stopping the boats, taking away the need for facilities such as Inverbrackie and dealing with the serious problems in our detention network today. I am sure we are going to hear much more of them in the coming days and weeks as the information that is coming through to offices like mine about what is going on in this network starts to filter out to the public. People will be very concerned about what is happening with the $1.7 billion blow-out in these communities. On that note, I make the point again that we oppose this bill because it is unnecessary.