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Monday, 23 November 2009
Page: 8577


Senator ADAMS (4:46 PM) —I rise in this matter of public importance to speak on the failure of the Rudd Labor government’s immigration policy. Through you, Mr Acting Deputy President, I would like to comment on—what is his name?


Senator Payne —His name is Senator Cameron.


Senator ADAMS —I would like to comment on Senator Cameron’s comment about the Labor government’s strong immigration—


Senator Cameron —If you cannot get my name right, how are you going to get any policy right?


Senator Payne interjecting—


Senator Cameron —What a pathetic performance.


Senator Payne —That is offensive.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Hutchins)—Order! Senator Adams, please continue.


Senator ADAMS —Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I would like to comment on Senator Cameron’s comment that the Rudd Labor government has a strong policy. I wonder where the Rudd Labor government would be if the Christmas Island detention facility had not been expanded. The former Howard coalition government fixed the problem and, with its strong border protection measures, made sure that there was a place where illegal immigrants could come and be properly processed. At that stage, Labor labelled it a ‘white elephant’. Do Labor senators still call that facility a white elephant? As a result of Labor’s failing policy, the Christmas Island detention centre is now almost overflowing. Unfortunately, there were riots there last Saturday night. I feel that this is very sad and I think that the Rudd Labor government should be doing a lot more than it is to prevent a recurrence of this incident.

Really, the government’s border protection policy is in complete chaos. It clearly has no solution to the influx of boats bringing people illegally into Australian territory. The former Howard coalition government fixed this problem. Labor then dismantled the policies and the boats started arriving in our waters again. It is Labor’s systematic softening of what was a very strong and successful border protection policy that has resulted in this sharp increase in people smuggling to Australia. As I said, the riots going on inside a detention centre over the weekend are very disturbing, and I do feel very sorry for the staff that are having to try to cope with the situation.

I wonder just what the Rudd government is going to do. There has been a record of violence and threats of violence associated with illegal boat arrivals in the blackmailing tactics of trying to get entry to Australia on boats. The Oceanic Viking episode of the past month was a complete debacle and an illustration of bad border protection policy and its processes. The government was effectively held to ransom, and the only way out of the mess it had created was to offer a special deal to entice the people off the boat. The Prime Minister was at pains to say there was no special deal done to get the people off the boat, but clearly there was, and even the media are saying that it is laughable to suggest otherwise. Day after day in this place, Senator Evans has been asked, ‘What was the special deal?’ I quote from the Sunday Territorian, where Senator Evans said:

They will be offered resettlement in resettlement countries. There’s no guarantee they will come to Australia, that was never part of the offer.

So now we have a deal, an offer and a message which says: ‘You can come to Australia. The gate is open. We will certainly make sure that everything is done to accommodate you.’ To get people off the boat, there must have been some offer made. What message does this send? The message spreads immediately. These people are very well organised, using mobile phones and the internet to spread the message immediately from the boats as to how they are getting on and whether they are making progress in getting to Australia or Christmas Island. Australia’s weakened border protection policies are well known and the boats, unfortunately, will continue to come until the policies are properly strengthened again.

As a Western Australian senator, it really concerns me that, as these boats tend to come further south, they are going to be coming into Western Australian waters. What is going to happen if they are not seen and they get to shore? We could end up with all sorts of different diseases, and of course foot and mouth is probably the most frightening of the lot. Being a farmer, I certainly would not like to see that. The Rudd Labor government has to do something to strengthen border protection; otherwise, Western Australia is certainly going to suffer.

My other concern is the debacle of the Oceanic Viking, sitting idle in an Indonesian port while it should be down in the Southern Ocean. As we have heard in the media, our valuable Patagonian toothfish stocks have been raided. A very long driftnet captured some 29 tonnes of fish. The Oceanic Viking was built for the icy, rough conditions of the Southern Ocean, not to sit off a port in Indonesia with a number of illegal immigrants on it. Going to the expense of the whole saga, it has cost the Australian taxpayers an exorbitant amount of money each day to have the Oceanic Viking sit idle—valuable tax dollars which should have been used on better border measures.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Hutchins)—Order! The discussion on the matter of public importance has concluded.