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Thursday, 16 August 2012
Page: 5515


Senator RYAN (Victoria) (11:25): I will not repeat what my colleagues have stated before me on the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2012, other than to say that I think Senator Johnston's contribution, regarding the burden of the failed policies of this government on our Defence Force personnel, is particularly worth noting. Our Defence Force personnel are a long way from home, in very dangerous situations, performing their duty without taxpayer-funded lobby groups or bumper stickers advertising the trauma they go through. The consequences of the policy failures of this government and the policies of the Greens that this government adopted are very personal for those people, and I think people should seriously take note of the trauma that Senator Johnston outlined. They do not have the same voice of organised, taxpayer-funded lobbyists or lawyers. They do not have press conferences on the steps of Parliament House to put that case, but it is a very, very important element that we should note for the people who serve in our name, defending our national security.

Senator Wright before me talked about the 'big lie'. The big lie is this: that the policies of the Greens that the Labor Party adopted and implemented would have no consequences. The big lie is that weakening the policies of the previous government would not encourage more people to take this dangerous journey to Australia. The big lie was that there is no such thing as pull factors. We have seen over the last four years the consequences of that big lie, and the consequences are enormous. They are people who have been denied the opportunity to come to Australia. They are the people who have lost their lives—those we know about and those we do not. They are the personal stories of people serving in our Defence Force that Senator Johnston has outlined. That is the big lie: that there would be no consequence from weakening the policies that worked. This crisis in policy is entirely a creation of this government, and it is important that the government be held accountable for this failure. The next time we are asked to rely upon the judgement or the good word of the Prime Minister or a member of this government, we can judge people by their track record.

I was not in this parliament before July 2008, but I have been a Liberal Party activist for a long time, and I remember the vilification of people in the then Howard government undertaken by those opposite and their second cousins or first cousins in the Green corner of this place—not just accusing their policies of being cruel but going to their very motivations and alleging they intended to be cruel. I have been at polling booths with representatives of the Labor Party and the Greens where they will insult, attack and vilify those doing nothing but supporting the policies of the Howard government, because it is never enough for the Greens or the Labor Party to address someone's policy; one must allege they are somehow motivated by the darker angels of human nature. I want to know where the apology is—in particular to the member for Berowra, because he was subjected to some of the most intense vilification and personal attacks that any minister in the Commonwealth has ever been subjected to, and it was by those opposite and their Green friends. Part of the reason this was undertaken was for political purposes, to try to generate a political advantage. Rather than just criticise the policy, in football parlance you played the man rather than the ball, and you threw a lot of high elbows. What the member for Berowra, the then minister for immigration, went through was nothing short of a disgrace, and that should be noted. I noticed on Monday that there was not even an acknowledgement from this Prime Minister that they had got it wrong. There was not even an acknowledgement—a courtesy—that the previous government's policies worked. I cannot help but think that one of the reasons this government has changed policies is that it is so obvious that the previous government's policies worked.

It is true this government has backflipped. There is nothing wrong with admitting one is wrong. But one needs to admit it to have the credibility to argue for the U-turn in policy. On Monday the Prime Minister and Minister for Immigration and Citizenship used a constant emphasis on the words 'expert' and 'compromise'. The hubris of this government is not limited by some sort of honest commitment to apology even for the personal attacks made, but that constant reference to expert and compromise stood out. I do not think compromise on something to do with our national security is something to be proud of. Our national security is something that we should not be compromising upon. Compromise for the sake of it is not something that governments should strive for. Admit that the previous policies worked and admit that the policies need to be reinstituted, but this government has the hubris never to do that. Its relationship with honesty and the truth is very limited.

We on this side know that history tells us that temporary protection visas are a critical element of managing our asylum seeker policy and our border security. I hope that this policy works, but I fear that it will not because that element in particular is lacking. I share the scepticism Greg Sheridan outlined in today's Australian that the endless process of a regional solution will not actually deliver an outcome. I note that the constant references to a regional solution could as much be an illusion for political activity as they are going to achieve a genuine outcome, because it has been going for a very long time and I fail to see the interest of some of those nations in cooperating purely for Australian domestic purposes.

I am concerned at proposals to raise the quota without a full consideration of what that means. I have the privilege of working in some areas of Melbourne where there are a great number of people who have been granted asylum by this country. I met a gentleman from Kenya last week who had left home in South Sudan at nine years old and spent years before he went to another part of Africa and then came to Australia. His story was sad but at the same time uplifting because he knew he had been given an opportunity in our nation. One of his concerns was that the services we are offering, because of the strain on our policies because of the failures of this government, are not where they were years ago, that people arriving now are not getting the same support as he did when he arrived under the previous government. I am concerned that raising the quota without a full analysis of what we are doing to support those who are being resettled here will not do justice to us or to the services we wish to provide those people with.

Many of my colleagues wish to speak, so I will not take up much of the Senate's time other than to say that we hope this policy works. I fear that it may not, but it is true to say that the policies of the previous government worked and we know that we need to stop this trade in people coming to our borders.