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Thursday, 16 August 2012
Page: 5551

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South Wales) (13:43): I also rise to make a contribution in this debate on the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2012, and to put on the record my view as a former shadow parliamentary secretary in this area, having had over my lifetime the benefit of experience in the migration area as a lawyer with the Australian Government Solicitor and having spent a lot of time dealing with constituents in the broader community and sharing their views and concerns about this important issue.

The only way to stop the boats and to end the needless deaths that we are seeing at sea is to adopt fully the coalition's proven record in this area. Yes, we have seen the government finally dragged kicking and screaming to adopt one plank of that policy—that is, offshore processing—but there are two other very important aspects: temporary protection visas and ordering the boats to be turned back when it is safe to do so. In the end, this has been supported—flip-flopped in the past but still supported—by Kevin Rudd prior to the last election. There he was in the Australian a few days before, advocating this policy.

All we have seen by this Labor government is years of 'policy failures'. To use the words of Julia Gillard, every boat arrival was a policy failure. Well, she has been an absolute unmitigated disaster, given what happened under her watch: 22,000 illegal arrivals, 1,000 deaths, harm to our international reputation and a $4.7 billion blow-out. Finally, this week we have seen part of an adoption of policies that worked but, unless you adopt fully the Howard government policies, you will not see the same results. An important feature of that is the temporary protection visa framework.

We saw Senator Evans so effectively dismantle a system. In estimates, I trawled through repeatedly with him and his department the many changes that they effected to this area of policy and we saw that bit by bit it was dismantled, whether it was the detention costs or the paying of legal fees and leaving a debt to the Commonwealth. Over my years, having done my fair share of migration law in the past, I have watched millions and millions of dollars of Australian taxpayers' money just forfeited, and people leave Australia with those debts. Now, even if they leave those debts, they can still apply to come back to this country. I think the taxpayers of Australia should know that. For every piece of dismantling that Senator Evans and those after him undertook, the people smugglers were probably watching it on their own websites, following it via the internet and changing their model accordingly.

However, nothing pales beside the vitriol and the verbal abuse that those of us who stood by went through, maintaining the need for order and process in immigration. The vitriol came from those on the other side and the Greens, and we have always had it and will continue to have it. Today, those positions have been vindicated. But we have not heard one word of remorse from the Prime Minister or those on the opposite side who verbally abused and vilified those of us who have been advocating these policies for a long time. We copped that abuse and now there is nothing from the Prime Minister. As one person said to me recently, 'What would you expect from a woman that is a cross between Lady Macbeth and Lucrezia Borgia?'

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Fawcett ): Order! Senator Fierravanti-Wells, I remind you it is not appropriate to reflect on the character or nature of the Prime Minister.

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President, I withdraw those comments. Immigration has always been about order and process. Millions of people have come to this country and abided by those processes. They have come here after waiting in queues. People who come to this country understand about queue jumping. They understand what it means to wait in those places for up to 10 or 12 years and be the next person in the queue to come to Australia and then to watch somebody jump you in the queue because they have undertaken an illegal process and paid a people smuggler.

As I go out, particularly to those people who have come to Australia, and speak to people who have come via the front door, they understand. It is interesting: I bet some of those constituents have told those opposite that that is how they strongly feel about this issue. There are many migrants in Australia who feel very strongly about this issue and those opposite have finally, obviously, been told by the focus groups brought to this process to—kicking and screaming—change their position. Having said that, even with the passage of this legislation on offshore processing, the question remains: can the government be trusted to properly implement these changes? Only time will tell.