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Thursday, 16 August 2012
Page: 5494


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Fawcett ) (10:16): Order! Senator Joyce, I remind you to address people by their appropriate title.

Senator JOYCE: Sure. Do we thank Senator Cameron? I can think of so many times when he was talking about Nauru, when Senator Cameron said:

… the closure of the disgraceful offshore processing centre in Nauru. It was a disgrace, it was an international shame and it brought nothing but loathing of this country …

And now he is voting for it. Again, Doug Cameron said:

… how Nauru could ever be contemplated as some kind of success.

And now he is voting for it.

I thank Senator Carol Brown for her support. I thank Senator Wong for the amount of work that she obviously did within caucus to fight for her beliefs. I thank her for that. It was quite laudable. I thank them for the discipline they have shown in saying absolutely nothing at all about their former beliefs. If you want to see what the archetypal view of a doormat is, it is the Labor Left—it is 'Roll over, lay down, but don't let me in.' That is the Labor Left.

However, it is a good outcome. I have to acknowledge that it is a position that is held by the Labor Right and it would be genuinely held by the Labor Right. It is genuinely held by us and it is genuinely held by the Liberal Party. We want stronger protections and we are willing to put in what is required to create the impediments, the disincentives, for people to get on a boat. We have had so many drownings. It has been an appalling debacle. The number of people drowning at sea is around the equivalent of our national road toll. That just cannot go on. That is a disgrace. We have always said that tough decisions were required. The coalition said this at the start. It is not that we wanted to revel in some sort of morbid or nasty approach; we just needed this disaster which was happening on our high seas to stop. We only have an estimation of how many people drowned. There is no real log of these people. God willing, it will, hopefully, now come to an end. That was our approach but, for the life of me, I never presumed it would be the approach of the Labor Left. You have to ask yourself: where is the philosophical soul of this movement? Is it gone? Is it finished? If it is, they should just announce it, fold up their banner and move on. It is a defunct movement.

We hope that those who are the benefactors of peddling human life across the seas start losing money. We hope that in this space we can exercise our role as humanitarians. That is definitely our role and we have to make sure that we maintain that. We need to make sure that we do what we can for people who are genuine refugees—that we facilitate their movement from camps, wherever they are in the world, to the extent that we are able to look after them as a nation. This is the difference that we have with the Greens. I know that the Greens have a genuine feeling that this is as much as Australia can take. We have to determine our capacity to do that. We have to determine our budget to do that. We have to determine that we do not create social imbalances by being excessive. We have to make sure that we create a form of assimilation. We have to make sure that we create an easy path for people who arrive in the future. We have our responsibilities but we must know the limit of our responsibilities.

Australia as a nation has been extremely generous in the role that it has played. Per head of population, it is vastly more generous than so many other places. I acknowledge that other places have more pressure put on them, but that is by reason of their geography. It is an example of our capacity when we reach over the seas, find people in difficult areas, bring them into our nation and do everything in our power to assist them. Concerns are voiced that we must placate within our own nation when people feel that domestic concerns are not getting an appropriate amount of attention in comparison to the attention spent on refugees. I do not think that is correct, but that is a view and we must not exacerbate that view by letting the number of illegal boat arrivals, or refugees, or whatever term you want to use, get out of control. We had a position in our nation where the integrity of our borders was well and truly called into question. We were not able to enforce the integrity of our borders, and if we cannot enforce the integrity of our borders we are seen as a nation that cannot deliver to its people one of their fundamental requirements, which include the integrity of their borders, the sovereignty of their soil and the provision of basic services at an affordable price or free.

What is the story now for the Labor Party or the Labor Left when one of their own members, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is yet again completely at odds with her own former statements? The need for offshore processing at Nauru might be my view, it might be Tony Abbott's view and it might have been John Winston Howard's view, but it was not Julia Gillard's view. The Australian people must be looking at their television sets and saying, 'Is there anything we can believe about this person whatsoever?' Is there any way that people can look at her and say: 'I might not agree with you, but I think you are succinct and genuine in your beliefs. You are reflecting to me your genuine and well-held beliefs and, in that, I have no doubt that you are a person of integrity. Although I might not agree with you, I believe that what you say is a truthful representation of your beliefs around where you are going to take us. When you say something that I disagree with, I know that is the end of it. When I say something that you agree with me on, I know that is where you are going to go. I have a reliable assessment of your character and who you are.'

However, sometimes the Prime Minister of Australia makes a complete 180-degree turn that works in the coalition's favour and we on the coalition side say, 'Hooray!' At other times it does not work in our favour. The only thing that is consistent is that she is completely and utterly inconsistent and there is nothing that you can rely on. No corner of reliability is left. The office of our Prime Minister has become a total and utter farce, and this farce has now infected this chamber. I can look across at Senator Marshall and say, 'That is not your view.' I can look at Senator Cameron and say, 'That is not your view.' I can look at Senator Carol Brown and say, 'That is not your view.' I can look at Minister Wong and say, 'That is not your view.' I can look at Senator Carr and say, 'That is not your view.' But they are all going to vote for it. They are all going to support it. They are all going to stand silent on it. Where have we gone? What is the point, Senator Cameron, of doing doorstop interviews anymore? Just forget it—give up on it. You do not really have a view; it is amorphous. You have no ticker.

For the rest of you, there is no point getting bitter and twisted; just acknowledge that you are now purposeless, that you are now soulless and that you have never stood up. One of those endearing human traits that we always believe in, an Australian trait, is ticker. Whatever your views are, make a stand because there will be someone out there who has the same views as you and they are relying on you to stand up on their behalf. But those days are gone. Now the whole infection has spread from a Prime Minister who has just been so glib and frivolous and expedient with her personal views. She has given reassurances to the Australian people time and time again, where she has said: 'Look at me. Trust me. I'm believable. You can rely on me. There is something there.' It is quite obvious that there is nothing there.

Where to next? How on earth can the Australian people look at the representations given by our current Prime Minister and think, 'There is something I can believe in that'?—because there is nothing. You would have to be completely and utterly foolish to now believe any utterance that came from the Prime Minister's office. You can just forget it. It is without meaning. This bill is a classic example of that.

I am obviously genuinely happy with this outcome because it deals with the situation offshore. I am genuinely unhappy with the fact that we have become almost philosophically bereft and completely and utterly mercenary now with the espousal of views—not my views but views that I thought were genuinely held by the Labor Party and supported by people with ticker. But they do not have ticker. That is another casualty of this debate.

The former Chief of the Defence Force, Angus Houston, is a man of impeccable character. The moment he was appointed to conduct this review it was certain that he would be truly independent and we knew we would get a recommendation that would include Nauru and Manus. That was obviously going to be the case because his remit was to ensure that the boat arrivals stopped and, of course, this will begin the process of stopping them—there is no doubt about that. That can be seen already as people try to front-end load the situation and exploit what they see as the closing window of opportunity. If that was the outcome that Ms Gillard ultimately wanted, then why didn't the Prime Minister say it at the start? Why didn't she say, 'I'm putting everything on the table'? Why did we have to listen to all these other statements of hers, one after another? As recently as 2011, the Prime Minister said:

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

Now she supports a virtual turnaround of boats. She also said:

Labor will end the so-called Pacific solution—the processing and detaining of asylum seekers on Pacific islands—because it is costly, unsustainable and wrong as a matter of principle.

A matter of principle? What principle are we working with now? What is the principle for today? It is Thursday; how long will today's principles last? Will they make it to 11 o'clock?

Even Senator Chris Evans—a bloke I thought might have had something inside his chest—said:

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

And he went on to say, 'It was also my greatest pleasures in politics.' That is what he said. He said it was his 'greatest pleasure in politics'. Not one of the greatest, not equal with other things, but his 'greatest pleasure in politics'. It was his greatest achievement, as judged by him, by Senator Evans. So what is he doing to today? He is going to vote to bring back what he thought was his greatest achievement in removing.

What goes on in the Labor Party meetings? What happens? Do you have them any more? Where do you hold them—under a rug? Do they give you ear plugs? What happens in those rooms? It will be amazing to see who turns up for the vote. I hope the Greens call a division, but we will have to see what happens. It will be interesting to watch.

I have always supported stronger borders. It was naturally a position the National Party had and it was naturally a position that the coalition had. We have been unambiguous about it all the way through. We have been consistent about it. Like us or loathe us, you knew where we were on this issue. It was completely and utterly consistent. We did not want to revel in it. It has probably been noticed that we on the National Party have not been banging on about this. We knew where we were going and we just wanted it to quietly resolve itself.

My point today—and I think it has to be noted—is that we are now moving back to where we were, which was the coalition's position. Naturally enough, the coalition will go back to what the coalition position was, and we have been honest and succinct about it. There are other people within the coalition who have been honest and succinct about their disagreement with certain sections of it—for example, Judi Moylan and Russell Broadbent—and I think they have been consistent in their views. But what I worry about is how the Australian people must look up at this hill and say: 'What on earth is going on up there? Who is running this show? Where is the substance or the character of consistency of the people who have this most incredible honour and the weight of the nation resting on their shoulders to run the nation?' On the position of leadership, whether you like the leader or not, the leader must be a person who is held in respect and must act as a person who would be respected. A person will be respected when they are consistent, persistent and unambiguous in their core principles. But this is not what the Australian people have received from the Labor government.

Is it political expediency? At least be honest about your motives. Is it just about clearing the decks? Is that what you are doing? Is that what it is about? Just tells us. Tell us what the mechanism was that made you devoid of your principle. Tell us why? People want to know what is going on in the Labor Party. They are kind of fascinated. What has happened? Is it now the case that the Labor Left's position is merely theatrics and pointless babble? Does it have a position on anything anywhere anymore? One of the biggest casualties in this is the exacerbation of a loss of respect in the office of our nation.