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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 5073

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryDeputy Leader of The Nationals) (15:14): It is rare that I rise in this place to start my remarks by offering some advice to the other side. There are some times in life when you realise you have simply got it completely wrong. We have all been through that. It is a little humiliating. But my advice to you for the future speakers is simply to do it with some dignity. This is a humiliating but, I have to say, welcome backdown, and we need to acknowledge that it has come at some cost, and that is why we need to give it a bit of dignity.

This has come at a fiscal cost—a contribution of some $4.7 billion—and there are 22,518 people who, if this policy had been adopted when the rest of the world knew it should have been instead of taking some cheap political position, would not have been forced to put their and their families' lives at risk. They came across in 386 vessels; and, sadly, those vessels were not in the finest of conditions, so over 600 lives were lost. Who would know what the real number is? Who would know the real cost?

We also have the massive profits and underpinning of international crime. We are underpinning international crime organisations that are also involved in other people smuggling and smuggling in the transport of drugs. We know that international organised crime is a bad thing and yet we—not those on this side but this nation and those on the other side—gave them a reason to operate.

We have been asked to believe that somehow this is a different Pacific Solution. Again, those on the other side: Nauru is in the same place on the map. It has the same postcode; nothing has changed. In fact, it has exactly the same phone number. Certainly Mr Abbott has asked on no fewer than 130 occasions, pleading with the Prime Minister to pick up the phone, so it is not as if we have not known exactly what you need to do.

We have had some commentary about some of the positions in terms of turning the boats around. It is interesting to note what the Prime Minister had to say on turning the boats around. This was back in 2002: 'And we think turning the boats around that are seaworthy, that can make the return journey and are in international waters fits in with that.' She seemed to be flip-flopping a bit, though. She went on in 2010, very recently:

I speak of the claim often made by opposition politicians that they will, and I quote: 'turn the boats back'. This needs to be seen for what it is. It's a shallow slogan. It's nonsense.

But then she had a bit of an epiphany. In 2011 she said:

They believe they are coming to Australia, but they end up somewhere else. It is a virtual turnaround of boats.

Sadly, we have seen flip-flopping on almost everything. On the temporary protection visas, back in 2002 she said people 'would in the first instance get a short temporary protection visa'. Again in 2002 she said, 'We want the short first-instance temporary protection visa'. In 2010 she said, 'The Rudd government is proud of its reforms in abolishing temporary protection visas—closing the so-called Pacific Solution'. I am not surprised that people are confused about their position.

We also had Senator Evans in this place. He said in 2008, 'the Pacific Solution was a cynical, costly and ultimately unsuccessful exercise introduced on the eve of a federal election by the Howard government'. I am very surprised those opposite are not standing up and simply admitting it is a humiliating but necessary backdown and treating this with the dignity that this issue deserves.

I urge all Australians, whilst those on the other side are now acknowledging the mistake that they made, to think for a moment, as we consider this issue and before we move on, of the vanity of four years. The cost of the vanity of the four years was 22,518 people, $4.7 billion of taxpayers' dollars that could have been spent on other things and, particularly, well over 600 people who, very sadly, lost their lives. (Time expired)