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Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 11217

Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (13:36): I come into this not having had a detailed knowledge until the last few days. I seriously have to say that I do not understand what is taking place here. The current figures that I have been given say that 85 to 95 per cent of people who get on a boat end up in Australia as Australian citizens. So a person in one of these countries where the people climb on the boats says, 'If you get on the boat, you've got near enough to a 90 per cent chance of becoming Australian.' And they say, 'Mate, come to Australia. If you've got a wife and three kids, you get pretty close to $80,000 a year and you do not even have to work.' I would think that half the population of Asia would be on a boat tomorrow. We do not have the wherewithal—even the good Lord said the poor will always be with you—to look after the world. We could not even remotely go close to looking after the world.

People in this place must have electorates that are very different to mine, because I have many people who are finding it extremely difficult to make ends meet. When we had a meeting of 15 towns, I was very surprised that people there were having enormous difficulty paying their electricity charges. We cannot pay electricity charges and yet we are able to take tens of thousands of boat people in each year. My position is: stay on the boat. They came here on the boats. I do not believe in drowning them or anything of that nature, of course—you provide them with diesel, food and bedding or anything—but you just do not have the right to simply walk in here and say, 'I am an Australian. I am seeking asylum.' These people are self-smugglers; they are smuggling themselves into Australia.

I represent some of the finest Australians and the finest modern migrant group that there is in this country; the Sikh people from India are very big in the Kennedy electorate. They are absolutely exemplary patriotic people who come to this country and within three seconds are proud, flag-waving Australians—and I do not mean to denigrate other groups by saying this. If you say that we are going to take these people in and process them here and that 90 per cent of them will stay here, I am telling you: my mob are going to be hopping on the boats, and I will be wishing them well. I will be out there waving to them and saying, 'Come here, fellas, that is a bloody great idea.' As far as I am concerned I would be letting huge numbers of those people into Australia. They have proved themselves in every single respect. I do not come here to praise a particular racial group. All I am saying to you is: it is so unfair to those people that they are kept out of this country by self-smugglers who arrive here and say, 'I am an asylum seeker.'

It would not be news to any informed person in this place that the Sikhs have not had a particularly happy road in India. They are not a majority group there. Many would argue that they suffer and may even still be suffering today. They can make as strong a case as anyone else to come here. Much as I love these people, we just do not have the wherewithal to take all these people in.

I have stood up in this place 100 times, maybe 200 times, and said, 'Please develop the water resources to the north.' We can take 100 more—

Opposition members interjecting

Mr KATTER: Don't come up with your hypocrisy. You were in government for 12 years and we did not get even a heap of concrete across a gutter-way. So don't come up with your hypocrisy.

The electorate of Kennedy can probably sustain a population of 70 million or 80 million people. The rivers in the Kennedy electorate have half of Australia's water run-off. Most of those are in the gulf, which is flat country—no rocks; absolutely fantastic farming country. I am not saying we would be able to use a million acres of the thousand million acres that are up there, no matter how many dams we built. I do not want to pretend what I cannot deliver.

Most certainly it is considered opinion that on the example of the Murray-Darling, with eight million megalitres, we can most certainly double or triple that figure in the gulf and peninsula. We can support a population of 60 million people because the Murray-Darling supports a population of 20 million people. I have always advocated an increase in population coming into this country. I see absolutely no problem. In fact, I think one of the preferred groups have very similar religious beliefs to the religious beliefs of this country. They have had democracy for 70 or 80 years; they have had rule of law for maybe 100 or 200 years. Whatever criterion you want to use for fitting in and feeling at home in this society is met, the fact that they have already proved themselves to be good citizens would be another element in that equation.

Similarly, the population of Queensland in the late 1890s was predominantly not European; it was predominantly Chinese. I would also have to say that the Chinese have proved exemplary citizens in North Queensland. It would be hard to name a family that was not related somewhere in the past or the present to people of Chinese descent.

We do not stand up here today to advocate a lowering of the boom; we are here advocating that the door is not open to anyone who wants to jump on a boat and call themselves an asylum seeker, when in actual fact they are self-smugglers. There may be very good reasons why they are self-smuggling. I am not denying that. There are a hell of a lot of people in the Punjab in India who could put up a very strong case indeed, in fact a stronger case, than half the people who are sneaking in now—and I use the words 'sneaking in'.

I voted against the Malaysian decision last time because I am not for handling them in Nauru or Malaysia or anywhere; I am for keeping them on the boat. They chose to get on the boat; that is their business. If a person chooses to go on a boat and can therefore automatically become an Australian citizen, which is the mechanism and machinery, then we have very serious problems indeed.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! It being 1.45 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the member will have leave to continue his remarks.