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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 5070


Senator CASH (Western Australia) (15:03): I rise to take note of answers given by Senator Evans to questions asked by Senator Abetz. I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research (Senator Evans) to a question without notice asked by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Abetz) today relating to asylum seekers.

As Senator Abetz stated in his question to Senator Evans today during question time, on 17 November 2008 the then Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said in an address to the Refugee Council of Australia at the Parramatta Town Hall:

Labor committed to abolishing the Pacific Solution and this was one the first things the Rudd Labor Government did on taking office.

He then rather arrogantly stated in this speech, and he confirmed those words today:

It was also one of my greatest pleasures in politics. Neither humane nor fair, the Pacific Solution was also ineffective and wasteful.

Jump forward to today, 14 August 2012, and what do we, the coalition and the public of Australia, now have? After years of telling the coalition and after years of telling the people of Australia that Nauru and the Pacific Solution will not work, after years of telling the coalition and the people of Australia that Nauru and the Pacific Solution were neither humane nor fair and that the Pacific Solution was also ineffective and wasteful, yesterday former Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston—the man hand-picked by the Gillard government to advise them on border protection because the Labor government had totally abrogated their responsibilities in this regard—said that the Pacific Solution will work, and has in fact advocated a return to it.

For years now, the Labor Party has been telling the coalition and telling the people of Australia that you cannot turn the boats back. Again, what did we have yesterday in the report that was handed down by Mr Houston? He has again said that there certainly are circumstances in which you can turn the boats back. For four years Australia's borders have been weak, lives have been lost at sea and Australia's reputation with its nearest neighbours has been completely, totally and utterly tarnished. Costs have blown out and people smuggling as a business has been allowed to flourish, all because those opposite—the Labor government and the Prime Minister of Australia—were too stubborn to admit that they got it wrong in August 2008 when they made the deliberate and wilful decision to roll back the proven border protection policies of the Howard government.

The last four years have seen what has been described as the greatest policy failure by any government in Australia since our inception. The Labor government inherited a solution. They were given one of the greatest gifts a government can ever be given when they take power, and that is that we had border protection policy in this country under control. But that was not good enough for those on the other side, and they set about deliberately and wilfully to dismantle the proven border protection policies of the Howard government. In fact, on 6 May this year—on that one day alone—more boats and more people arrived in Australia unlawfully than in the last five years of the Howard government. If you want further proof that the decision by the Labor government to dismantle the Pacific solution has resulted in disastrous consequences for this country, you need look no further than this statistic: under Prime Minister Gillard—under her watch alone—the number of people who have arrived in this country unlawfully has exceeded those that arrived during the entire 11 years of the Howard government.

The Labor government should apologise to the people of Australia for their abject failure when it comes to border protection. They should apologise for dismantling the Howard government's proven border protection policies, which they have now been told worked, stopped the boats and broke the people smugglers' model; they should apologise to the taxpayer for unnecessarily wasting billions of dollars, to the tune now of in excess of $4.7 billion; and they should apologise to the Australian people for offering a business model to the people smugglers who, by their criminal actions, have caused untold suffering to those who lost their lives at sea. (Time expired)