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Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Page: 12499


Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:44): I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Warringah moving immediately—That this House immediately bring on the Government’s Migration Legislation Amendment (Offshore Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2011 for a vote.

We do have, in the waters off Indonesia, an unfolding tragedy. That is the only way to describe what is happening in the waters off Indonesia. We have six confirmed dead, we have 20 missing and we have 46 rescued. This is a tragedy. Issues like this need to be dealt with, and this is why it is important that the measure in question be brought into this House for a vote urgently. That is why it is necessary that standing orders be suspended.

I want to make it very, very clear that the government is not to blame for the tragedy unfolding in the waters off Indonesia. The opposition is certainly not to blame for this unfolding tragedy. There is only one group of people who are to blame for this and that is the people smugglers, who are putting the unwary and the unwitting at risk on the open sea. But what this tragedy does remind the House is that it is important to have a clear and definite policy to stop the boats.

The opposition has a policy to stop the boats. It has been the same policy for a decade. Our policy to stop the boats is offshore processing at Nauru, it is temporary protection visas and it is turning boats around where it is safe to do so. That is our policy, and it is a policy that has worked. It is a policy that has worked in the past, and a policy that can work again in the future.

By contrast, the government has had no fewer than five separate policies. The first policy was the processing freeze of arrivals from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, the most discriminatory immigration policy since White Australia. The next policy was the East Timor processing centre, a policy that got lost somehow in the Timor Sea because the Prime Minister did not understand that the President and the Prime Minister had rather different roles in that country's polity. Then there was the Manus Island policy, a policy that did not get anywhere because the Prime Minister was not prepared to commission the foreign minister to do his job. Then there was the Malaysia people swap policy, a policy that was struck down by the High Court. And, finally, the fifth policy is onshore processing. That is it: it is onshore processing. So they have gone through East Timor, they have gone through Manus Island, they have gone through Malaysia and now it is back to good old Australia. That is their policy: onshore processing in Australia, unless of course they can get the Malaysia people swap up. There is one way to get the Malaysia people swap up: put it to the parliament. That is what the government should do now. On no fewer than six occasions last night, the Minister for Home Affairs said in his press conference that it was absolutely vital that the Malaysia people swap legislation be supported by the parliament. Well, let us put it before the parliament now and let us see what happens. That is what should be done, if the government is serious about stopping the boats.

We know on this side of the House that the Malaysia people swap is a cruel deal for boat people and it is a dud deal for Australia. It is a dud deal for Australia because it has already been proven not to work. Since the Malaysia deal was first announced on 7 May, there have been—wait for it—27 boats: 1,637 people. Since the Malaysia deal was signed there have been 16 boats and 1,070 people, and since the government failed to put the legislation through the parliament a fortnight or so back there have been six boats and 350 people. But that is what the government says it wants to do. They say that they want their Malaysia people swap deal supported by the parliament. Well, give the parliament the chance. Do not be frightened of the people's representatives: bring the legislation before the parliament.

The Prime Minister said on no fewer than six separate occasions that it would be brought before the parliament. The Prime Minister said it was 'absolutely imperative' that this legislation be brought before the parliament. She said it had to happen because she wanted our votes to be recorded. We are happy to have our votes recorded, but they cannot be recorded unless there is a vote. They cannot stop the boats but, please, bring on the votes—bring on the votes! Here is your chance to bring on the votes.

Mr Speaker, I will tell you why they do not want to bring this legislation before the parliament. They are not just concerned that they are going to be outvoted on this side of the parliament; they are concerned that they do not even have the numbers on that side of the parliament. They think that they do not even have the numbers on their side of the parliament. We know that the member for Fremantle has said that she does not support the Malaysia people swap deal. We know that the member for Chisholm has said that she has grave reservations about the Malaysia people swap deal, and no less a person than the foreign minister himself, the member for Griffith, has warned his own government about a lurch to the right, which is what the Malaysia people swap deal represents.

We know that this government is hopelessly divided on this issue. We know, because they are telling us. They are telling us because they are telling every journalist who will listen. We know that the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship himself supports offshore processing at Nauru. We know that because his friends in the cabinet have made it crystal clear to journalists, who have done us the favour of telling the whole world. We know that one of the reasons that the Prime Minister is in such desperate trouble is because she shopped the minister for immigration. That is what she has done: she has completely betrayed the minister for immigration by completely abandoning any real commitment to offshore processing. I say to this government: do not say that your policy is to do something if you lack the numbers in the parliament to do it, because a government which lacks the numbers in the parliament to put its policies into place is a government which has forfeited its right to govern. We know that when the Prime Minister took over back in June of last year, she said that the government had lost its way and that there were three things she was going to fix. She says she has fixed climate change, but only by breaking a solemn pledge to the Australian people. She certainly has not fixed the mining tax, because that is now hostage to the member for New England and the coal seam gas protest. And border protection is just a complete and utter and embarrassing shambles.

This is a government which cannot control Australia's borders. And if you cannot control the borders, you cannot govern the country. And if you cannot govern the country, you have a clear option—that is, to call an election. If this government is not prepared to put the legislation that it says is necessary to a vote of this parliament, it should accept that it has lost control of the parliament and it should do the decent thing—call an election. This is an incompetent and untrustworthy government; it is a divided and directionless government; and, when it comes to border protection, this is a government which should simply have died of shame.

The SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?