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Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Page: 6079

Senator POLLEY (TasmaniaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (15:08): What an outrageous contribution, yet again, from that side. They come into this place and try to lecture us about human rights. Let us not forget what happened with 'children overboard'. I know you are very good at trying to rewrite history but the people will judge you, as they have in the past, on your history of human rights and what happened with 'children over board' and with the Tampa. Your policy is one of sink or swim. Not only are you going to turn back the boats but you want to tow them out to sea. What happens then? We on this side of the cham­ber know, as a government that is concerned about the welfare of these refugees. We are concerned about them. Those people are coming here by boat because they are desperate for a new way of life.

Of course we are supporting the Malay­sian solution. It is a test for those opposite who come into this chamber and espouse and lecture on all sorts of issues, including this one, and of what Mr Abbott is going to do. Is he actually going to put the welfare of these refugees and the Australian people above his own political advantage? We know what his position will be on that. He will never do it, because all he is about is—

Senator Furner: Nauru.

Senator POLLEY: Nauru, Nauru, Nauru and oppose, oppose, oppose at whatever cost it may be to these people's lives. I am really quite disappointed in Senator Cash when she tries to make accusations about our record on the treatment of children. What about the children who have been locked up in detention centres? What about the Howard government's record on that in the past? So let us not try to rewrite history, as you have done time and time again. As a government, we will be bringing the legislation into the parliament, and that is when those opposite will have their opportunity to put their names on the record and vote. If they do not support the legislation to allow the processing in Malaysia or any other destination decided by the minister, then they will be judged on that.

Each and every one of us in the chamber knows that Mr Abbott has been told—he has been advised by the officials—that his preferred position of Nauru will not work; it will fail. We know that. Those on the other side know that. This is all about the oppo­sition's strategy to oppose, oppose, oppose in order to gain some political momentum to help their cause. But the reality is that the option of Nauru is too expensive—a billion dollars. It is not even ready for operation.

As I have said, when it comes to this government, the issue of refugees is a very emotional one. When men, women and children who, in most cases, get on an unseaworthy vessel in order to come to this country, we will as a government always have the overriding obligation to prevent loss of life and to ensure that we take every action possible to stop people smugglers and those who organise that trade—not the victims. We have compassion for the refugees. We have real compassion.

Senator Abetz interjecting

Senator POLLEY: I am not going to stand here and have interjections from you, Senator Abetz, when you are trying to lecture me on compassion for refugees or human rights issues. We will all be judged in history on what happens with this issue and on every other issue, including the $70 billion crater because your party has now walked away from openness and transparen­cy when it comes to budgets.

Senator Abetz: What has that got to do with refugees?

Senator POLLEY: It has everything to do with the credibility of the opposition. It has everything to do with the credibility of Tony Abbott and the fact that he no longer has any credibility when it comes to the issue of refugees, because he is known as Mr Flip-Flop. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Before I call Senator Bernardi, could I remind senators to address their remarks through the chair and please address the members of the other house by their correct names and titles.