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Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 11256

Ms GAMBARO (Brisbane) (16:25): I am pleased to speak on the Migration Legislation Amendment (Offshore Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2011. This is an important piece of legislation for a number of reasons. The government's proposed changes to the Migration Act fail to provide the protections previously provided under the coalition's legislation and fail to properly quarantine ministerial discretion from being open to judicial interpretation. More importantly, rather than seek to uphold the protections that have been a feature of the Migration Act for over a decade now, this amendment bill gives people smugglers back their business model.

Under my colleague, then minister, and member for Berowra, the coalition established section 198A of the Migration Act to enable offshore entry persons to be processed in another country. Under that section the minister could make this declaration provided it had some essential safeguards in place. Those safeguards were very important. They were: access to effective procedures for assessing a person's need for protection; protection for persons pending determination of their refugee status; and protection to persons given refugee status while they awaited return to their own country or were resettled in another country. I hear the hypocrisy of those who speak on the other side about a humane way of doing things. It also made sure the standard of human rights was protected.

The government's response to the High Court decision has been to abolish these protections in this bill, to allow the minister to make a determination without any such protection. To support this bill in its current form the coalition would need to walk away from a decade of policy that has supported such protections contained in the act. We will not do that. Unlike this government, our policy has always been consistent and transparent. Our policy was proven to work and our policy had the experience.

This amendment highlights yet again a government failure. It flips, it flops, and it shows its inconsistency all over the place. More deeply, it goes to the heart of everything that is wrong with this government. It is not consistent, it does not have the courage of its conviction, in this area of migration policy it flops and changes its policy every second week and, deeper than that, it cannot be trusted to manage the borders of this country.

How do we know this? We know this policy does not work. It has not worked so far. We have had 241 boats turn up with over 12,000 people. So who do the Australian people trust to manage these borders? This government has had a consistent failure on record of boat arrivals. The government has embraced policy failure after policy failure and the government is now, again, coming to us, the opposition, and asking for a blank cheque for another policy that will be a failure. It wants to implement its already failed Malaysian proposal, which has led to 1,000 people turning up since it was announced. That is more than half the 800-person quota since the agreement was signed. We had a bizarre situation in parliament yesterday when the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship said to the shadow minister, the member for Cook, 'Well, if you don't think it's going to work why don't you vote for it anyway?' Have you heard of anything more absurd, more illogical and more stupid?

This government might be used to voting for very bad policy, but the coalition are not, and we are not going to vote for bad policy.

The only reason they want the bill in this form is so that they can implement the Malaysia solution. We have given them an amendment that will allow them to choose to open up the processing centre on Manus Island or on Nauru. They can choose from over 148—