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Thursday, 16 August 2012
Page: 5550


Senator MADIGAN (Victoria) (13:40): It has been roughly six weeks since we left this chamber and since we debated this legislation: the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2012. Quite frankly, I think the debate reached a very low point in this chamber. I sincerely believe that nobody in this place bears any ill will or malice towards asylum seekers, but there has been political gloating on the point we have reached today. We must remember that we are speaking about people; we are not speaking about figures in a book. Even when we debate things in this chamber that affect Australians here today, we are speaking about people and how we affect their lives, their families and their communities. The politicisation of the misery of others is a pretty low point to reach.

Whether it is current Australians, new Australians, refugees, asylum seekers or people who seek humanitarian relief in our country, all people in this country need jobs, they need housing and they want a good environment. It is incumbent upon us to deliver these things in the best possible way that we can. We do not live in a perfect world, and no legislation that comes out of this chamber is perfect, but people in this place genuinely try to do the best that we can. Messrs Houston, Aristotle and L'Estrange are, I believe, honourable men and they have produced a report for this parliament under incredibly difficult circumstances. Now it is up to us to judge that. I believe they have done the very best they could under the circumstances.

In recent times I have visited Villawood detention centre to try to get some understanding of what refugees and asylum seekers experience when they come to our shores. Quite frankly, I would not like to be there. I acknowledge that they are fed and they are housed and everything, but it strikes me that it is a bit like Jurassic Park. I hope that the refugees, the asylum seekers and people seeking humanitarian relief are treated equitably under this legislation and that they are not used as political pawns. I believe that the Senate must continue to review this legislation over the coming months and years to make sure that we deliver a fair, equitable and humane system for all Australians.