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Thursday, 16 August 2012
Page: 5547

Senator KROGER (VictoriaChief Opposition Whip in the Senate) (13:25): I, too, rise to make some very brief remarks following the comprehensive and heartfelt contributions of my colleagues on this side of this place on the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2012. Notwithstanding some of the emotional speeches made from the crossbenches, the continued loss of asylum seekers' lives at sea is a matter that fundamentally strikes at the heart of us all. We are at one in our determination to do what we can to ensure the disgraceful practice of people trafficking is stopped—period—and that the most humanitarian approach is taken in dealing with refugees. The coalition has consistently argued for and demanded the adoption of the former Howard government's Pacific solution for one reason and for one reason alone: history has demonstrated that it works. The Pacific solution worked. It is compassionate, notwithstanding the histrionics of those who have decried it in the past and continue to decry it today.

I feel impelled, though, to put on the record a couple of points. I will make them fairly brief because it is important that this legislation be passed today. Firstly, political parties are elected to office to govern. That is something that this Gillard government does not seem to get. It is the responsibility of an elected government to make the necessary tough decisions that are in the interests of all Australians to ensure that we fulfil our international and moral obligations. What worries me most, though, is that, whilst the coalition has continually sought to sit down with the government to discuss the policies that worked under a coalition government, the Gillard government, firstly, refused to do so—

Senator Feeney: You refused to participate in the committee!

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Fawcett ): Order! I remind senators that speakers have the right to be heard in silence.

Senator KROGER: Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. Rather, the Gillard government chose to contract out that responsibility to a committee to make the decisions for it.

The former Chief of the Defence Force, Angus Houston, Michael L'Estrange and Paris Aristotle are all highly respected and eminent individuals, so my comments in no way reflect on them personally. Rather, I believe that the approach that the government took is a damning indictment on the Prime Minister and her cabinet. They were incapable of reaching a solution and needed the involvement of a third party to come up with a proposal—elements of which, I hasten to add, we have been calling for now for some years. This government continues to fail every test when it comes to leadership.

My second point, just in closing, is how incensed I get in this place when I listen to the Greens and some of those on the other side of the chamber who constantly champion the furphy that they are the guardians of the moral high ground—and you all know who you are because you do it consistently in this place. What absolute bunkum! Clearly, they believe that if they say something long enough it becomes a fact. But history will continue to demonstrate that actions and facts actually speak much louder than words.

There would not be one person—not one person—who has not been deeply moved by the images or accounts of men, women and children who have lost their lives at sea. Just as we are concerned about the millions housed in refugee camps across the globe, it is compassion and common sense that drives our support for this bill. Compassion drives our support for a system that seeks to break the people-smuggling model and a system that does not disadvantage those people who seek asylum through the UN sanctioned refugee camps. It is a system that seeks to be fair and equitable, and I support this bill.