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Friday, 25 November 2011
Page: 9685

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (14:34): I rise to say a few words in support of the Deterring People Smuggling Bill 2010 and the position Senator Brandis indicated. But before I do I will make some comments on the contribution by the previous speaker, Senator Hanson-Young. I remind the previous speaker and the people of Australia that, when Mr Howard was Prime Minister, there were at times a number of illegal entries to Australia—boat people. Through a bit of trial and error, we eventually got a system in place where we had offshore processing in Nauru—and this actually did stop the boats. It worked. So for Senator Hanson-Young to suggest that this did not work, that nothing has worked, is simply incorrect and contrary to the facts. Under the Howard government, this did—

Senator Hanson-Young: Do you actually know anything at all about this legislation? This has nothing to do with the bill.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I am answering you, Senator Hanson-Young. You were the one who went into this area.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald, address your comments through the chair. Senator Hanson-Young, you were heard in silence and Senator Macdonald should be as well.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: The previous speaker went into this area and is now interjecting and saying this is not part of the bill. I am simply responding to the arguments she made. If it is not part of the bill when I say it, it must not have been part of the bill when she was speaking.

The Howard government's approach actually worked. We did stop the boats. We were also able to turn boats around when it was safe to do so. Anyone who was at estimates a few weeks ago would have heard the Chief of Navy—who is an expert on it because he was a more junior officer at the relevant times—explain how the boats were turned around and how this was done safely. He also explained how sometimes it was not possible to do that. Of course, the ABC and some other commentators gave huge preferĀ­ence or exposure to the admiral talking about the one that failed and made no reference whatsoever to the admiral's original comments, where he went through in quite some detail how you could turn boats around safely and how you could make the policy Mr Abbott has enunciated work—that is, turning boats around when it can be done safely and offshore processing at Nauru.

The Labor government's border protection policies and migration policies are an absolute shambles. Hence, if this bill will do anything to stop people smugglers, even if in a very minor way, then I am in favour of it. Senator Brandis has indicated why the coalition is supporting this government bill and why we are facilitating its passage through the Senate this afternoon, the last day of sitting, after the Labor Party and the Greens have guillotined 20 pieces of legislation so far this week without so much as one word being spoken on them. We have been voting on bills all week that many people would have little idea about because we were not allowed to speak on them.

In the previous week, 18 of the most complex bills that this parliament has dealt with in the last decade, relating to the carbon tax, were rammed through this parliament with only one or two of the bills in that package being dealt with. Already we have seen what a farce that carbon tax legislation has become. Australia will become, if it is not already, the laughing stock of the world for having a tax of $23 per tonne on carbon dioxide emissions. The rest of the world is standing aside and laughing, rubbing their economic hands together with glee as they think about what business and jobs they can pick up. We have already seen jobs go from Australia to China and India because of that package of bills, which went through because it did not have proper scrutiny by this parliament.

Anything that will help border protection and stop people smugglers, as this bill will do in a way, is something we support, so we will facilitate its passage through the parliament. But before I sit down I want to again make the point to senators and to the people of Australia who might be listing to this debate that the reason why the coalition is so incensed at the Labor Party's inability to protect our borders and stop the boats is that for every person that comes in illegally by boat someone living in a squalid refugee camp somewhere in the world is put back another year. That seems to be okay as far as the Greens go. If you happen to be a wealthy person, and the Greens have shown quite often in the last few weeks that they are for the big end of town, for the wealthy people, the people who can make donations of $1.6 million—

Senator Edwards: How much?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You don't make a donation to the Greens of $1.6 million if you are not the big end of town, the wealthy end of town. Thank you for the interjection, Senator. You remind me that the biggest single donation ever in Australian political—

Senator Hanson-Young: Jealous!

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I'm jealous, am I? After two decades of listening to railing against private donations, somehow when I raise it I am jealous! I tell you what, Senator: I am embarrassed for you people—and that is a generosity I do not often extend to the Greens. We are talking about $1.6 million, so don't talk to me about who is in the pay of the big end of town. That is quite clear.

These people coming in by boat are not the penniless refugees who have been living in squalid camps around the world for 10 years. They are people who can afford $10,000, $15,000, $20,000 a pop, to pay a people smuggler to bring them in, and that is only what it costs to get from Indonesia to Australia. What they have paid to get from wherever they come from to Indonesia we do not know. Senator Hanson-Young, they are not the poor, the disadvantaged. They are the big end of town, the wealthy end of town, that clearly the Greens support.

What I am concerned about, and I will always make this point, is that Australia has a very proud humanitarian arrangement and we have been at the forefront on a per capita basis of taking genuine refugees for 50 years. We are proud of it, and so we should be, but we have a fixed number. As I have said before, perhaps the number is not right. I am prepared to debate that, as I have with the Refugee Council. We take about 14,000 genuine refugees every year. Maybe it should be 20,000; I do not at this stage enter into that debate. But we do take a fixed number, and for every one of these people that come in, having paid $10,000 or more to get a boat from Indonesia to Christmas Island, someone who has been in an absolutely squalid camp, someone who is a genuine refugee and has been so determined by the UNHCR over many years, has to wait another year for their chance to get to Australia.

That is the sort of policy that the Greens support: forget about those in the squalid refugee camps around the world who are waiting their turn, desperate to get into Australia within the limit of our intake of about 14,000 a year, but let's encourage these people who can pay $10,000 to the people smugglers to come in. You have to put in place an arrangement where those people who would pay the $10,000 see that they are not automatically going to come to Australia, that they are not automatically going to become part of the very generous Australian legal system where they can challenge decisions for years, right through to the High Court if needs be, or that once they get into Australia they will get social security benefits in one form or another from the Australian taxpayer that they would never get overseas. That is why the Gillard government, and the Rudd government before it, supported by the Greens, is simply a beacon, a green light, to the people smugglers who will bring these people here for money.

The issue that disturbs me, and I get very angry about this, is that the Greens and the Labor Party seem to have no interest whatsoever in those genuine refugees living in squalid refugee camps around the world. They are all in favour of the wealthier ones who can pay the $10,000 and who know they will get the support of the Greens political party and the Greens parliamentarians wandering around waving placards at every demonstration they can. It is important for senators and for the people of Australia to understand that, for every refugee who comes illegally into the country and remains here, one genuine refugee from someone else in the world misses out on their chance to come to the very lucky country.

Having said that, I support the reasons that Senator Brandis has given for the coalition's support and, in spite of the Labor government's complete mismanagement and inability to allow debate and the appropriate passage of bills in this chamber over the last few weeks, we on this side will facilitate the debate so that this bill can be voted upon. I note that the Greens say that this should not be dealt with today. If they had not voted with the Labor Party to cancel Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday's sitting next week we could have debated it more fully then. If they think they have a point, why did they not take the next three days to argue it in the Senate to try to convince us that they are right and we are wrong? But no, they want to head off to Durban, so they will do anything. Then they have the hide to get up here and complain about not having enough time to debate this. The hypocrisy of the Greens knows no ends. I support this bill.