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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 5730


Senator CASH (Western Australia) (15:56): Senator Thistlethwaite questioned the need for this matter of public importance discussion today. I have to remind Senator Thistlethwaite: you were at a caucus meeting this morning when your own party was fighting over the absolute disarray in which your government has put border protection in Australia. Did you not read the headline in the paper today: 'Showdown: Labor rebels rally to sink Gillard's offshore asylum seeker solution'? You question why we have come in here today and raised this as a matter of public importance. Go and have a bit of a chat with Senator Cameron. See how Senator Cameron is feeling today. Have a chat with Senator Marshall. See how Senator Marshall is feeling today.

Listen to the talk that is going on in the corridors because, as a result of 24 June last year, which is now fondly known as 'execution day', there is a very good chance that the Australian public is going to revisit that day. Why? Because the Prime Minister who replaced Mr Rudd said at the time:

I accept that the government has lost track. We'll get it back on track. I have taken control for precisely those purposes.

What an absolute joke! What did she take control of? She took control of what was a complete, total and utter mess on that side. Lo and behold, she has managed to make it even worse.

The 'current' Prime Minister—and I use that word very loosely, as I know many on the Labor side of politics do—has also gone on the public record asking the public not to judge her on the way she became Prime Minister but on the job that she is doing. If the latest Newspolls are anything to go by, from the rumours in the corridors of Parliament House—and we all know what those rumours are; in fact, lo and behold, Senator Farrell walks in right on cue—the current Prime Minister is about to become the former Prime Minister.

In relation to so many policy failures, this is possibly the greatest policy failure of the Gillard Labor government. Who can forget Ms Gillard's catchcry when she was the shadow minister for immigration, when she used to say to the opposition if another boat arrived under our watch, 'Another boatload, another policy failure.' That was her mantra. I ask those on the other side: now that the Prime Minister has notched up a century, in that 100 boats have now arrived on our shores under her watch—and that is not a century to be proud of—what is the level of policy failure that is currently engulfing the Prime Minister of Australia? Put aside what I have to say as a coalition senator. You all expect me and all of us on this side to come into this place and criticise you. Let us have a look at what members of the Labor Party—members of the current Gillard governĀ­ment—have to say about the Prime Minister's mess when it comes to border protection. Senator Mark Bishop, a Western Australian senator, said to the Australian online when he was commenting on the government's mishandling of its botched Malaysia solution that the 'very existence of the government itself' was threatened. And he did not stop there. He went on to say:

There appears to be continuing lack of accountability, ministers don't seem to take responsibility for their own decision-making and consequences.

The Australian public must be fully confident of the ministers on the other side when their own Labor senators are doubting their own confidence.

But let us not stop there. Let us look at the House of Representatives. Let us see what Labor MP Graham Perrett said about the government's botched border protection policy. He said that the government needs to take time to get the policy right. You have got to be kidding me. Haven't we on this side listened to you bleat on and on and on for what is now turning into years that you had the policy right? And you had it wrong all the time. You had it wrong on every single occasion. One of your own members in the House of Representatives has at least now had the guts to stand up and say to the people of Australia that the government needs to take the time to get it right—an outright admission that when it comes to border protection policy this government is an absolute failure.

But it does not stop there. Another Labor senator, Doug Cameron, who is the convener of the left-wing group of the Labor Party, is on the record as saying that all of those who sit around him in the Senate have become 'political zombies', too scared to speak their minds. And what did he say about the Malaysia solution, which the Gillard government today reaffirmed itself to, despite the legal advice? Senator Cameron said that the Malaysia solution was no solution at all. That is a Labor senator saying that. And I understand Senator Marshall was not far behind him. That is two Labor senators who have stood up in caucus and said that the Malaysia solution is no solution at all.

Yet we come into this place today and are subjected to unity on the Labor side of politics: the Malaysia solution is going to stop the boats. I hate to tell you this, but it has not stopped the boats yet. They continue to arrive. In fact, if you go back to your offices you will probably find that another one has arrived. But the 100th boat under Prime Minister Gillard's watch arrived post the Malaysia announcement. It is interesting that since I have been in this place there has been this constant tension between the left and the right of the Labor Party. Today we see, yet again, the Left coming in, all built up. And yet again they have to roll over. Senator Cameron and Senator Marshall have had to roll over. They have had to have their little tummies tickled. They have had to be told to be good boys and come in here and tell this place to tell the Australian public it is a solution, when they are on the record as saying it is the complete opposite.

In addition to that, let us have a look at what the newspapers are saying about the Gillard government. If any senator wanted confirmation that the Gillard government's policies are not working and that there is massive dissension in the Labor Party ranks, they need only look at a snapshot of the headlines from the last 24 hours. The first one is 'Labor could win if Rudd returns', in Adelaide Now on 12 September. I would like to know Senator Farrell's views on that, quite frankly. Were you the unnamed source, Senator Farrell? If you were, put your hand up now. The second headline is 'PM facing Malaysian deadlock', in the Australian on 11 September. Then there is 'Emergency talks to head off shift to Rudd', in the CourierMail on 10 September; 'Julia Gillard seeks action as smugglers close in', in the Australian on 10 September; '100th boat on Labor's watch', in the Daily Telegraph on 10 September and '100th asylum seeker boat arrives for Julia Gillard', in Adelaide Now on 10 September. I could go on and I could go on and I could go on.

Senator Farrell: Please don't!

Senator CASH: Such is the extent of the failure of this government when it comes to border protection. I see Senator Farrell is laughing. I have to say to Senator Farrell, as someone who had his little paws all over 'Execution Day' a year and a half ago: if you thought it was bad under Mr Rudd, what do you honestly think now? This is a Labor Party that is in a complete, total and utter mess when it comes to so many of its policies, not least of which is border protection. Again, it is not just us on this side of the chamber who think that. The House of Representatives itself condemned the Malaysia deal. A motion was passed in the House of Representatives condemning the Gillard Labor government. And who supported that motion? Adam Bandt did—Adam Bandt, who as we know is in alliance with the government. The Independents Andrew Wilkie and Bob Katter, whom the government has to rely on for support, actually supported the motion, despite the Prime Minister's pathetic protestations. Under Prime Minister Gillard, Labor has an appalling record when it comes to protecting Australia's borders.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Before I call Senator Polley, I remind all senators to correctly address members of the other house.