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Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 11198

Mr BALDWIN (Paterson) (12:06): I rise today to speak to the Migration Legislation Amendment (Offshore Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2011 and, in particular, to reject the government's bill and to support the opposition's amendments. The only reason that we have had 12,263 illegal arrivals on 241 boats is that this Labor government held up the 'open for business' signs. In fact, since the Prime Minister became leader there have been 100 boats, containing 5,710 illegal immigrants. For the record, not one person has been processed offshore.

It was this week that Treasurer Wayne Swan was named Finance Minister of the Year. I am absolutely sure that the 'People Smugglers Association' would call our minister for immigration the 'International Immigration Minister of the Year' because he has done so much for people smugglers. In fact, he has recreated an industry that brings to those people smugglers somewhere between $120 million and $250 million in revenue, and that was after the Howard government smashed the people-smuggling rings.

It is only absolute stubbornness that stops the Prime Minister from having an offshore processing solution. The Prime Minister—that wheeler and dealer; that negotiator of extreme ability—cut a deal with Malaysia which sees us taking five refugees for 800 people. That is a hell of a deal, but she should actually work out that 50 per cent of something is better than 100 per cent of nothing. If the Prime Minister were to agree with the amendments by the opposition, she would have in place an offshore processing regime that does not dictate Nauru. In fact, Nauru is excluded until Monday, when it will finally have its signed ratification of subscribing to the UN convention on refugees. In fact, what amazes me is the Prime Minister's push for Malaysia when so many speakers in the past, on previous bills, have spoken about the need to have countries that are signatories to the convention.

I quote from the UNHCR website about Malaysia. It says:

Malaysia is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its Protocol.

…      …   …

By law, refugees are … vulnerable to arrest for immigration offences and may be subject to detention, prosecution, whipping and deportation.

It is true that Nauru is not a signatory at this point in time. It will not be ratified until Monday. So by the time this bill is voted on and by the time it goes through the Senate, Nauru will be a signatory. As I said, it is only the stubbornness of this Prime Minister. In fact, I quite expect the Prime Minister to come in and say something along the lines of: 'We, and we alone, will dictate the terms of who comes into this country and by which means they come into this country.' So much so is her stubbornness.

Hypocrisy knows no bounds. I say that in the light of the Prime Minister's position on 6PR on 8 July last year, when she said:

I would rule out anywhere that is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention.

But she has changed her mind yet again. This Prime Minister has had more positions and more policies than I have had hot feeds—and, I have to say, that is actually saying something! She has changed her mind on so many issues and has changed direction from one extreme to the other, bouncing almost like a ball in a pinball machine—bouncing off the little flickers—

Mr Hartsuyker: She's faster than that!

Mr BALDWIN: She is faster than a ball in a pinball machine, but she is not on her own. I state to the House: when the Howard government instituted offshore processing, when we turned the boats around and had the Pacific solution, supported by temporary protection visas, it stopped the boats. We did not have this problem. We broke the people-smuggling ring and we denied them of around $250 million worth of income.

The hypocrisy is shared by many on her side. In fact, I might not agree with Mr Bandt, the member for Melbourne, but I do admire his conviction and, in particular, his consistency. That is something that is absolutely lacking from members opposite. I think back to the speeches in the debate on the Migration Amendment (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals) Bill 2006. That was debated on 10 August 2006. There were a number of speakers, in particular the member for Grayndler, as he was then. In his speech he said:

You do not protect your borders by giving them up—and that is what this bill does.

He went on to say:

The Labor Party supports border protection but does not accept that excising the whole of Australia is an effective means of border protection. You do not deal with boat arrivals by pretending that you do not have sea borders or by pretending that, if you arrive by one particular mode of arrival—boat—you do not arrive in Australia …

In fact, he then went on to quote the UNHCR and said:

If this were to happen, it would be an unfortunate precedent, being for the first time, to our knowledge, that a country with a fully functioning and credible asylum system, in the absence of anything approximating a mass influx, decides to transfer elsewhere the responsibility to handle claims made actually on the territory of the state.

He even went on to quote Justice Kirby's letter, which said:

Every diminution of freedom takes us in the wrong direction. Every act of discrimination by our parliament and governments dishonours our nation.

He summed up by saying:

But we have to bear in mind how future generations will look at what we are doing …

I look forward to the courage of conviction and consistency from the member for Grayndler. But he is not on his own. The member for Melbourne Ports—one of those people so passionate about human rights and such a strong advocate who is lining up—in his speech, on the same day and on the same bill, said:

I am pleased to see that some of the members opposite—the members for Kooyong, McMillan, Pearce and Cook—agree with us. I commend their adherence to principle on this matter and hope other coalition members and senators will also agree with us.

The list goes on. The member for Shortland, on the same day, said:

Nauru will be used to detain asylum seekers, and asylum seekers arriving by boat will have no access to legal or appeal proceedings in Australia. I think that is rather horrendous.

She went on to say:

… I see asylum seekers and refugees as some of the most vulnerable people in the world. I am very ashamed to have been part of a parliament that has adopted this approach.

I ask her: how does she feel now? She goes on to say:

If I was in a situation where I was as desperate as many of these people who are hopping on those leaking boats are, I would do exactly the same.

Further, she says:

Labor believes all asylum seekers should have the right to access Australian appeal processes, the Refugee Review Tribunal and Australian judicial review. To deny this is to deny basic human rights.

But the ringer in all this is the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, who made a speech that same day when he was just the member for Prospect. He said:

If the Migration Amendment (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals) Bill 2006 passes the parliament today, it will be the day that Australia turned its back on the refugee convention and on refugees escaping circumstances that most of us can only imagine. This is a bad bill with no redeeming features. It is a hypocritical and illogical bill. If it is passed today, it will be a stain on our national character. The people who will be disadvantaged by this bill are in fear of their lives, and we should never turn our back on them. They are people who could make a real contribution to Australia.

He went on to say:

The biggest problem is that, even if an asylum seeker overcomes all these obstacles and has their application for refugee status accepted, there is no guarantee of a visa to settle in Australia. Someone who makes it to the Australian mainland and has their case as a refugee accepted may not be able to gain a protection visa in this country, and that is a national disgrace.

Further, he said:

The Prime Minister is selling out our national sovereignty. This tragic and discriminatory policy does not come cheap. Taxpayers are paying for the maintenance of offshore detention centres at the cost of $3 million to $4 million a month. They are much more expensive than detention centres in Australia. We have the worst of all worlds—an expensive, discriminatory and tragic policy.

He summed it up by quoting the convention on refugees, which says:

The Contracting States shall apply the provisions of this Convention to refugees without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin.

Finally, he said:

I appeal to the better angels of the nature of those opposite. Some have already expressed their unwillingness to support this legislation.

I think that pretty much sums up the hypocrisy of the people that occupy the government benches. It shows the hypocrisy of members like the member for Banks, the now member for Werriwa, the member for Melbourne Ports, the member for Jagajaga, the member for Lyne, the member for Grayndler and the member for Sydney, to name but a few, because they lack conviction. One of the things you have to be very careful of in this place is that when you make a speech and you say something on the record it is there forever. Those words that I have quoted are their words, not words that I am putting into their mouths.

But what are we going to see today? We will see them all line up. At that time they called on people like the then member for Cook, the member for McMillan, the then member for Kooyong and, of course, the member for Pearce to have the courage of their conviction and to cross the floor because sending people to a country that is not a signatory to the refugee convention was immoral and a disgrace. We say to them today: act upon your conviction and your principles. Cross the floor and support an amendment that dictates not an individual country but basic human rights protections. I quote the paragraph we wish to include:

(d)      the designation of a country to be an offshore processing country need be determined only by reference to the fact that the country is a party to the Refugees Convention or the Refugees Protocol.

It cannot be any simpler than that. The country must be a signatory. I go back to what I said earlier, wherein I quoted the UNHCR website about Malaysia. I have no problem with Malaysia. They have their own laws, they have their own values and they have their own views but, unfortunately, they are not a signatory to the convention. The UNHCR website says:

Malaysia is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its Protocol.

…      …   …

By law, refugees are … vulnerable to arrest for immigration offences and may be subject to detention, prosecution, whipping and deportation.

Those members that I named previously had a lot to say when they were in opposition about offshore processing, how inhumane it was and how terrible it was that we were not standing by the convention to which we subscribe. I say to them now: here is your opportunity; reject your own bill, which goes against the very essence of your own conviction and your previously stated statements to this House, and support the opposition. Will they have the absolute conviction to stand up for what they believe in, and what they have already said, and support the opposition? It may not be what they truly want, but what they are going to vote for with this government goes against every grain, everything they have said and everything they have stood for. In the years after they leave this place, as one of the members I mentioned said, how will future generations look upon the actions that they have undertaken?

This is fairly simple. The government will be given a licence for offshore processing in a country of the minister or the Prime Minister's choosing, provided it is a signatory to the refugee convention. I restate what the opposition's policy will be if we come to government: we will institute offshore processing, we will institute temporary protection visas and we will turn the boats around. It worked once before; it will work again. It is only this Prime Minister's absolute stubbornness and conceitedness that stops her from progressing in this vein. (Time expired)