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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 5850


Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (15:14): 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 calls on the Prime Minister to explain why she continues to pursue a people swap policy with Malaysia when it is now abundantly clear that Nauru provides an immediate solution to deal with illegal arrivals that is cost effective, humane and proven. In particular:

(1) why would the Prime Minister send illegal arrivals to Malaysia:

(a) which hasn't signed the UN Convention Against Torture, rather than Nauru which has;

(b) which won't sign the UN Declaration on Refugees, when the Nauru Government announced yesterday that they will;

(c) where they would be detained and tagged, rather than Nauru where they would have the run of the island under an open processing centre regime;

(d) when she can't guarantee the standard and accessibility of medical care, when I have personally seen the hospital in Nauru and I can make this guarantee; and

(e) when she can't guarantee the access to school for the children, when I have personally seen the schools in Nauru and I can make this guarantee; and

(2) above all, why should the Australian taxpayer be forced to pay over $300 million for a new processing facility in Malaysia when they have already funded one in Nauru that could be rapidly re-opened for a fraction of the cost and has been proven to work.

This is a very important issue. There is no more important issue than protecting the borders of our country. What is manifestly clear is that nothing this government has so far proposed has worked to protect the borders of this country. Back on 24 June last year, a date which will be known forever—at least to the foreign minister—as the day of fundamental injustice, the Prime Minister of this country said:

I accept that the Government has lost track. We will get back on track. I have taken control—

mark those words—

for precisely that purpose.

What control and what track? When it comes to border protection, the Prime Minister firstly announced that she would be sending boat people to East Timor. She made this announcement before the East Timorese government even knew about it. Then the Prime Minister announced that she would be sending boat people to Manus Island. She made this announcement before the PNG government had agreed to it. Finally, on the Saturday before the budget and in a state of desperation over the constant flow of boats to our borders, she rushed out—gazumping the Treasurer's own budget—and announced that boat people would be sent to Malaysia. She announced a deal before it was done. Every day in this parliament and in the public arena, as we saw earlier today in question time, it is clear that nothing about this deal is certain.

The one thing that is absolutely certain about this deal is that this Prime Minister, this minister and this government cannot be sure that boat people sent to Malaysia will be treated humanely. They cannot give that guarantee. I can give an absolute guarantee that any boat people sent to Nauru will be treated humanely and in accordance with decent Australian standards. I can give that guarantee because they have gone to Nauru in the past and they have been treated humanely.

The problem with the Prime Minister's people swap with Malaysia is that it is unfair to our country. Why should we take five times the number from Malaysia that they are taking from us? It is unfair and it is costly. Why should we spend $300 million to establish a processing centre in Malaysia when we have already spent the money to establish a centre in Nauru?

There is no more urgent matter for this House to consider than this, given the urgency of resolving the problem at our borders. We must suspend standing orders because it is the only way we can discuss the inhumanity that is inherent in what the government is proposing. Anyone sent to Malaysia under the government's deal, unlike sending people to Nauru, will be subject to Malaysian norms and not ours. I make no criticism of the Malaysian government. I make no criticism of the standards that the Malaysian government chooses to apply to its own people and to people who come irregularly to Malaysia, but people who have come to Australia deserve to be treated according to Australian standards. That is how they deserve to be treated and we can give a guarantee that anyone sent to Nauru will be treated humanely and decently.

What the government is proposing is that boat people who come to Australia will be sent to Malaysia. They will be detained, then they will be tagged and then they will be released. It is a 'tag and forget' policy. What this government thinks—as if these human beings are going to roam around Malaysia for the rest of their days with tags around their necks—is that somehow this tag, this talisman, will protect these boat people indefinitely from the rigours of the Malaysian penal system.

We have just heard what the Prime Minister said on another subject which involved the standards that apply in another country. She wants to send a flotilla of inspectors to that other country, and until those inspectors have been to that other country there is no way that we can have dealings with that other country. Is there a proposal to send inspectors to Malaysia? Is there a proposal to send similar battalions of inspectors to Malaysia to ensure that this tag is somehow sacrosanct? Of course there is not. I say to the decent, humane and caring members opposite who spent so much of their political careers attacking the Howard government for its alleged inhumanity to boat people: how can you sit there? How can members of the Left sit there silent when this government is proposing to deal with boat people in a way that is infinitely, vastly worse?

Tom Uren has been sitting in this parliament today listening to members of the Labor Party support a solution for the people-smuggling problem which will expose people who come to this country to caning with the rattan. It is necessary that we suspend standing orders because nothing is more important than ensuring that this government does not expose the boat people who come to this country to standards which are not ours.

I have been to Nauru. I have seen the facilities and I know what can be done. I know that there is no caning in Nauru. Detention is more cost-effective in Nauru and in conjunction with the use of temporary protection visas it has been proven to work. I visited many facilities in Nauru over last weekend and one of those facilities was a new police headquarters. I ask members opposite to note this: any people sent to Nauru who fall foul of the laws of Nauru would go to that police headquarters. I did not see any rattans. I did not see any whipping posts. I did not see any. Has Minister Bowen been to Malaysia? Has he inspected the justice facilities there? Can he give an absolute guarantee, any sort of guarantee, that boat people sent from Australia will not be treated by standards that we think are utterly inhumane.

Standing orders must be suspended so that this Prime Minister can explain why it is that she proposes to subject people who have come to this country, who have sought the protection of this country, to this kind of regime. She must explain herself. She must explain why she said, 'I would rule out anywhere that is not a signatory to the refugee convention,' but is now proposing to send people to Malaysia. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?