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Monday, 19 November 2012
Page: 8909


Senator CASH (Western Australia) (10:02): I rise to speak on the Appropriation (Implementation of the Report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers) Bill (No. 1) 2012-2013 and the Appropriation (Implementation of the Report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers) Bill (No. 2) 2012-2013. In debating these bills it is important that Australians clearly understand the reason the government is introducing these bills; why they have been rushed into the parliament so soon after, and in addition to, the 2012-2013 budget bills; and, more importantly, if these bills are passed, what impact these bills will have on the Australian taxpayer. So what is the government's reasoning and intentions by rushing these bills into the Senate?

These are bills that will appropriate additional money out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to pay for the costs associated with the implementation of the report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers and related purposes. Appropriation Bill No. 1 provides for an additional injection of just over $1.4 billion and Appropriation Bill No. 2 provides for an additional $267,980,000, giving a total appropriation for these two bills of $1,674,982,000. Let's now put that into plain English so that the Australian people understand exactly what the Senate is being asked to do today by this government. Why does the government need an additional $1,674,982,000? Because of the government's gross incompetence when it comes to managing Australia's borders, the government, consistent with its form since it was voted into power in November 2007, has come back to the Australian taxpayer and is once again asking for the taxpayer to pay more money. The government, because of its ideological hang-ups and incompetence, has destroyed Australia's very strong border protection regime and is now continuing to plunder the pockets of the Australian public so that it can continue to pay for its political ineptitude.

Interestingly, an examination of the reasons set out for introducing these bills shows as follows. There is the need to provide additional funds to open the Nauru detention centre and the Manus Island detention centre. One might recall that these are the same two detention centres that were the substance of a bill introduced in 2006 by the then Prime Minister, John Howard. It was the Migration Amendment (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals) Bill 2006. Who can forget the hysterical comments of the Labor opposition at the time as they embarked on a campaign across Australia to vilify the then Howard government for seeking to process illegal boat arrivals offshore? The Left, the Right and the Centre of the Labor Party united on this point. They travelled across Australia and screamed out their indignation and their total opposition to what they said was a gross injustice and a total breach of human rights: processing illegal boat arrivals offshore. They then swore to the Australian public, to the Australian voters, that they were a party of principles and they could never ever vote for what they said was a disgusting and disgraceful breach of human rights.

Some Labor members even said at that time that the Howard government bill was unconstitutional and if passed by the parliament would result in a massive compensation issue for Australia in the future. Yet here we are today, debating appropriation bills, with the government asking for an additional $1,674,982,000 to pay for offshore processing on Nauru and Manus Island.

There is no doubt that the left wing of the Labor Party in particular, in voting for this legislation today, are complete, total and utter hypocrites. They say one thing to the Australian public, but when Ms Gillard pronounces that they will now support offshore processing what do they do? They roll over in caucus—the Prime Minister scratches their little stomachs and they betray their so-called principles. They do this because they never had any principles in the first place. For those on the Labor side of politics let us now remind you of some of the previous hysterical claims of some of the Labor members who are now urging the parliament to pass these bills today. And these bills, remember, are intended to establish the very acts that Labor so passionately and vehemently opposed when they were introduced by a coalition government in 2006. In 2006 Chris Bowen, now the minister responsible for immigration issues and Australia's border security, said this about the Migration Amendment (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals) Bill 2006:

This is a bad bill with no redeeming features. It is a hypocritical and illogical bill . If it is passed today, it will be a stain on our national character. The people who will be disadvantaged by this bill are in fear of their lives, and we should never turn our back on them.

He went on to say:

The Howard government changing our system to suit the concerns of another nation is nothing short of a disgrace. The Prime Minister is selling out our national sovereignty. This tragic and discriminatory policy does not come cheap. … offshore detention centres … are much more expensive than detention centres in Australia. We have the worst of all worlds—an expensive, discriminatory and tragic policy.

But then came the cruncher about repealing the Howard government bill if it were passed. What did Mr Bowen say on that point? He said:

We will oppose this bill, and I call on members opposite to join us. If it is passed, it will be repealed by an incoming Labor government. Decency and self-respect as a nation would demand nothing less.

Well, what do we have today? Mr Bowen is now actually pleading with the opposition to ensure that this bill passes the Senate today—the bill which he said in 2006 the Labor government would repeal if it were passed. And what about Simon Crean? Mr Crean, as we know, is a minister and was previously a Labor Leader of the Opposition. What did Mr Crean say in 2006 when speaking on the Howard government bill? He said:

It does nothing to secure our borders and returns to the government’s old policy of deterrence and punishment based on fear. It is a bill that should be opposed.

Well, Mr Crean, I understand, will vote for it. Dick Adams, the member for Lyons, said this:

The bill means that if in future people fleeing persecution arrive on Australia’s mainland in a canoe, they will be sent to Nauru to be processed and Australia will act as though it has no obligations. Under this proposal, children will be in detention again. We will see indefinite detention come back.

And then, of course, there were the comments of well-known left-wing faction leader Anthony Albanese, who is now a senior Labor minister. Back in 2006 he had this to say:

I wish to speak in the strongest possible terms in opposition to the Migration Amendment (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals) Bill 2006. This government has a policy that is built on sand. It shifts with the wind, it shifts on the basis of what is in the political interest of the government in terms of its preparedness to promote fear, to promote hatred and to vilify some of the most vulnerable people in the global community. It is no way for this parliament to provide the leadership that we have been entrusted to provide by our respective communities.

And he concluded his comments with:

We need a government that is prepared to promote hope over fear, and we need a government that is prepared to respect the human rights of all individuals. I urge the House to reject this abhorrent legislation.

Just to remind everybody, in case we think we are actually about to reject this legislation, Minister Bowen has been pleading with the shadow minister for immigration and the coalition to ensure that this 'abhorrent' legislation, as they called it back in 2006, is passed by the Senate today. I wanted these hypocritical comments of Labor members in 2006 to be recorded in Hansard to remind Australian voters that the Labor Party are not a party motivated by principle. The Labor Party would not know what principles are. They wake up in the morning and sniff the public attitude of the day, and their principle is actually determined that morning. They are motivated by sheer power. The left wing of the Labor Party in particular will be voting with the coalition to ensure this legislation goes through. They have forsaken Labor principles on the altar of political hypocrisy and duplicity. That must make those on the left of the Labor Party very, very proud!

Labor's mismanagement of the immigration portfolio and failure to secure Australia's borders has cost the Australian taxpayer dearly over the last five years. That cost is reflected again today and it is a cost that continues to be out of control. To see the failure of the government's border protection policies and the astonishing fiscal ineptitude of successive Labor governments when it comes to this particular portfolio, you need look no further than Labor's 2011-12 billion-dollar budget for asylum seekers. That billion-dollar budget was ironically based on just 750 arrivals for that particular financial year. It was a rather absurd target, one might say, given that this is the evidence.

Since the election of the Labor government in November 2007, and as a direct result of the Labor government reversing the strong and proven border protection policies of the former, Howard government, 29,868 people have arrived on 512 boats. An even more glaring statistic under the current Gillard government is that, notwithstanding the promises that the Labor Party made to the Australian people in the lead-up to the 2010 election, the total number of boat arrivals since polling day on 21 August 2010 is 358 boats carrying 22,519 people. The former Prime Minister, former Minister for Foreign Affairs and now backbencher, Mr Rudd, must choke on his breakfast daily when he gets the updated boat arrival numbers that come through every morning. You have to remember that one of the reasons Ms Gillard politically executed Mr Rudd was her allegation that Mr Rudd's border protection policies were failing. How ironic for Mr Rudd.

In the first five months of this financial year alone—July, August, September, October and we are now into November—9,957 people have arrived on 177 boats. That is in the first five months of this financial year. This just shows how out of touch the Labor Party are with reality. It also shows just how out of touch they are in relation to the cost blow-out of their border protection policies, because the Labor budget for the immigration portfolio for the 2012-13 financial year was based on just 3,000 arrivals. The budget for the entire 12 months was for 3,000 arrivals; in the first five months there were 9,957. If you were to merely double that number to see what might happen over the next six months, you can see an almost sixfold budget increase.

And that is not the only impact that Labor's gross fiscal ineptitude and failures in this policy area is having. Australians are also now paying an extra $1.1 million per day purely because of Labor's failure in this portfolio area alone. Compare what Australians were paying under the Howard government with what they are paying now: under the Howard government they were paying nothing; now Australians are paying $1.1 million per day for the policy failures in this portfolio alone. Australians should ask themselves how many extra hospital beds, how many additional classrooms and how many additional computers could be provided to Australian citizens for the billions of dollars that are now being used to fund Labor's border protection failures.

We saw the poll today in relation to the impact of the carbon tax. Only three per cent of the mums and dads of Australia think they are better off. I think 38 per cent of Australians now say they are worse off as a direct result of the implementation by the Labor Party, and, of course, their friends the Greens, of the carbon tax. What you have is the mums and dads of Australia, who are already struggling under the rising costs of living and who cannot afford to pay their electricity bills because of Labor's carbon tax, being slugged time and time again because of Labor's failures in this particular portfolio area. The Labor Party should have the decency to at least come clean with the Australian people and justify how, in five years of successive Labor governments, we have gone from a situation where, under the former, Howard government, Australia's immigration and citizenship portfolio in this policy area was costing the Australian taxpayer approximately $85 million per year—that is $85 million per year. It has now cost Australian taxpayers, over five years, in excess of $6 billion compared to $85 million per year. Just two years ago, in 2009-10, Treasurer Swan got it so very wrong when he said to the Australian people that the cost of managing asylum seekers going forward would be $455 million over four years. Here we are today—five months after we passed the most recent budget—and the Senate is being asked to appropriate an additional $1.6 billion. Treasurer Swan was so very wrong. He thought it would be $455 million; we are now looking at in excess of $6 billion in this area alone.

The Australian public need to understand: when we say $6 billion in this area alone, this does not include the costs that are absorbed by other departments, it does not include the costs to the Navy for its search and rescue work, it does not include the cost to Customs for its seaborne and airborne surveillance, it does not include the additional costs that Centrelink is now paying out and the drain on our social security budget, and it certainly does not include the additional costs that are now being placed on our health budget. The reality is this: if the Labor Party had just left the former Howard government's policies intact, we would not be having this debate today. The Labor Party would have no less than an additional $6 billion of taxpayers' money that they could apply towards the interests of Australian citizens. Instead, what are we doing? We are standing here today debating a bill that will provide the government with additional money to the tune of $1.6 billion so that they can establish the regional processing centres on Nauru and Manus Island—something that we did under the Howard government and something that the Labor Party said they would never, ever do as a matter of principle.

Minister Bowen will now go down in history as the biggest-spending minister for immigration of all time. That is not something to be proud of. When it comes to the immigration policy around detention centres, you actually want to be spending next to zero. As we move closer to the next federal election, this just shows Labor have no principles. (Time expired)