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Thursday, 16 August 2012
Page: 5619

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (16:20): I get sick and tired of feigned emotion like that exhibited by the lead speaker for the Greens and of the illogical arguments of the Greens and, prior to today, of the Labor Party as well. While there are some Greens senators here, can I ask them a question. We take in a certain number of refugees. We can argue all day about whether it should be 13,000 or 20,000 or 27,000 or five million, but whatever it is we have an upward figure. The question is: what do you say to one of the 250,000 refugees living in a squalid refugee camp in Breidjing in Chad when they are next on the list? They are following the UNHCR rules, they have been determined to be refugees by the UNHCR and they are sitting in that squalid camp awaiting their turn, but every time some wealthy person who can pay $10,000 a head—the sort of money people in a refugee camp in Chad could not even dream of—comes out of the system and lands illegally in Australia, that person languishing in the squalid camp in Chad has to wait another year.

Senator Ludlam was talking about a fair go, that Australia is recognised for a fair go. What is fair to those living in those squalid refugee camps in Chad if every time someone comes here ignoring the system, jumping the queue—and I will say it and say it again—then someone else suffers? That is why I have always said—and I have said this many a time before—we have to discourage those who would enter Australia illegally, jumping the queue, and be fair to all of those who have been determined to be genuine refugees. These people coming by boats are not refugees; they are asylum seekers. Their determination, their status, has yet to be determined by either Australia or the UNHCR. But there are people who have been determined as being genuine refugees living in squalid camps all over the world, waiting their turn to get to the promised land of Australia or New Zealand or Canada or Britain or the United States. But every time we take someone out of the system then they have to wait longer.

I want someone from the Greens to tell me how that is fair, how that is humane. You have certain rules and everybody follows them, and I can tell you that every one of those people in the refugee camps in Chad would be barracking for us. In fact I have to say that at the Brisbane show on the weekend when I was at the LNP booth there, I actually had some of those refugees come up to me and finger-chest me and said, 'You tell Tony Abbott he is right. We had to wait our turn. Everybody should follow the rules.' So that it is why I am here. Please get someone from the Greens. Get Senator Hanson-Young back and let her tell me what is fair about a system where those who have been waiting for five, six and 10 years in squalid camps should be put back because someone has decided to pay a criminal to get them to the top of the queue.

There are around 11 million refugees in Australia and the figures change each year. What do the Greens want us to do? Do they want us to look after them all, to take in 11 million? That would be great. I would love to be able to do it. But Australia cannot afford it. This government is going very close to breaking our country already just as the Labor government did in Queensland. It is going to be an even longer time before we can be more generous. I would like to see the Australia's refugee intake go up beyond the 13,000-odd that it currently is, but it does cost money. I know that under the Gillard government we have been wasting money by the bucketload in any number of ways. One of them is in preparing Christmas Island and a dozen other places around Australia as detention camps and employing all of these guards and people to look after them. The budget has already blown out and it would be better, I suggest, put into getting genuine refugees into the system and allowing us to put up the 13,000-odd number. But they have to be paid for and Australia has to be able to afford it. Per capita, Australia does pretty well with its refugee intake.

There is a lot more I would like to say on this bill but we are keen to get at least this small step forward through the parliament, so I and others have been asked to restrict our comment and I intend to do that. But I did want to speak to associate myself with the comments made by all of my colleagues on this side. This is not the solution. It is one-third of the solution, one part of three that have been proved to work. The first is offshore processing, which this bill will do, so we support it. But the other two, the temporary protection visas and the turning the boats around where it is safe to do so, should be implemented. I do not think this is going to be as effective as it should be.

One thing I do agree with Senator Ludlam on is that we will be back debating this. The Labor Party took six years to admit they were wrong, a humiliating backdown, but at least they are going in the right direction now and that is good. But we will be back here, because it will not work without the other two legs of the three-legged approach to stopping it. I do not have time, but I do not think that it needs me to explain how those three elements actually stopped the flow of illegal immigrants to Australia all those years ago. It worked. Why Ms Gillard was persuaded by the Greens to that policy is distressing—I know why: because she needs their support. To dump that policy that was proved to work just distresses me. We are going back to the Howard years, thankfully, but we are only one-third of the way. We need to do the other two parts and I look forward to the day when we can do that so it does provide a fair go for all of the refugees who unfortunately exist on our planet.