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Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Page: 10209

Mr GEORGANAS (Hindmarsh) (16:14): From what we are hearing from those opposite, it is as if they wanted that trawler to come in and stay here. They are having a go at us for introducing legislation in the next couple of days. It sounds as if they are very keen to have that trawler fish the entire supply from our waters. But this is an opportunity to speak about something else.

Today's MPI was either going to be this—a pretty lame motion that has been sitting on someone's desk for over a year—or a motion on the destruction of the Australian economy, the wrecking ball that is said to be coming to be unleashed on the Australian people, from the introduction of a price on carbon pollution. The MPI would not be on the need for us as a nation to improve the education standards, for example, of Australian school children. It would not be an MPI on the need for us as a nation to protect our fisheries from over-exploitation and collapse. It certainly would not be on the need for us to improve the health—and specifically the dental health care —of the hundreds of thousands of age pensioners around the country who cannot afford dental care in the private market. But, certainly, it would be about scaremongering and fear, which is all we have seen from the opposition. It certainly would not be on the need for us as a nation to take the necessary steps to sustain the Murray-Darling Basin. These are real MPIs that they could have brought to this House to contribute to the debate about politics and policies in Australia. Instead we see them bringing fear constantly to this parliament.

Today's MPI is another example of the fearmongering of the opposition. It was always only going to be a motion on one of two things—and the only two things the opposition can focus on are the price on carbon and asylum seekers. These are the two fearmongering things they constantly focus on. From a certain perspective, it simply does not matter which one of the two they chose, because they are exactly the same. From the opposition's perspective, they are one and the same—an opportunity to say that the sky is falling and that the world as we know it is nearing its end. It is nothing but fearmongering. It is really unfortunate, because we are playing politics here with people's lives.

This is a sneak preview of what you would see of an Abbott government. We all remember the children overboard. We remember the lies and the deceit that came from that, and we know the politics that was played around that. Extremist views have taken over the Liberal Party and the opposition. How far will they go to spread this fear? All they care about is an opportunity to scream out to the Australian media that we are facing the greatest threat to the nation since World War II. It is highly disingenuous, highly irresponsible and highly, highly cynical. In the case of their preferred fear campaign at the moment—that is, the policy of carbon pricing—we have seen that the world has not ended, regardless of what they have said for the last 18 months, that the economy is not being wrecked, that investment is continuing and the economy is still growing. But the fear that the opposition has spent the last 18 months whipping up, the distress that the opposition invested so much of their time and efforts into—and so much of this parliament's time refuting—has been seen in reality to be highly misleading, and deliberately so. Their fear is political and is only for political ends. We have all had the opportunity to engage in this policy process, especially over the last few months.

It was about three months ago when many of us spoke about how tragic it was to see lives being lost. We spoke about the many, many asylum seekers who have died at sea, who drowned in the waters to Australia's north. It was only three months ago that members of the opposition openly wept for the loss of life and the terrible, devastating impact that those deaths had on, not only the families of the deceased, but also the people on Christmas Island who had witnessed that great tragedy firsthand. And it was only three months ago that the government was again blocked by all opposition parties. It was only three months ago that these parties sabotaged the government's plan to stop the trade in people smuggling. They stopped the government's plan by throwing up the most ridiculous set of arguments and alternatives—but still they sabotaged it.

So we saw the government enlisting the panel of experts that we have spoken about in the last few days, and we saw that panel reporting to the government on how the best outcome could be achieved. We saw the government committing to all the recommendations from the expert panel—each and every one, not cherry-picking or choosing. On this side of politics we take advice from experts—unlike the opposition, which is taking advice from Gina Rinehart and wants people to work for $2 a day. That is what we see from the opposition. We do not see a focus on supporting the recommendations.

We do not see a focus on all of the recommendations being implemented as a package, which is so critical to their success. We see, before a single person has been transferred to the first of the off-shore locations, the opposition saying that they are not going to work. They are already screaming and scaremongering and saying that the recommendations are gone and that the world is in fact going to cease to exist as we know it—as they have said with other issues.

It is really telling that the opposition, earlier in the year, would not even say that it would support the government's implementation of coalition policy. They would not even support their own policies being implemented. Clearly they do not care about the policies, their implementation or the effectiveness of any policy. All they care about is fear. That is what they crave. Fear is their policy, and fear is what they can deliver to the Australian people—even from opposition. It is very scary to think that they could be in government.

In an area of public policy—which clearly has involved the deaths of hundreds upon hundreds of people—we see this MPI brought here today, and again it is the opposition playing politics with people's lives. It really is quite disgusting that so-called representatives of the Australian people are happy to play their own brand of funny buggers and have the lives of people a distant second to their own political fearmongering and possible political gain. If the opposition were serious about this area of public policy, they would have come out supporting the recommendations of the panel of experts, as the government has done. If the opposition were serious about stopping the people smuggling, they would have come out supporting all options including not just Nauru, not just PNG, but the Malaysia people swap as well—as recommended by the panel of experts.

If the opposition were in any way serious about preventing more deaths at sea they would have come out supporting any and all actions of this federal government that would diminish the incentives of people to continue setting out to sea.

The ridiculous suggestion from the opposition that their policy is the solution to all of Australia's troubles and the only policy that will work—that of 'turning the boats around when it is safe to do so'—betrays their cynicism. It is perfectly clear from all advice that there are no situations in which it would be safe to do so. The opposition may as well advocate levitating people off the boats when they have the mental powers to do so. It is a hollow set of words that is, in reality, meaningless. The opposition have no effective policy in this area at all.

The motion moved by the member opposite is an empty and useless contribution to public debate in this place. I would suggest that if they want to be a government in any future parliament they should start developing policies that they can actually see themselves trying to implement. That is what we on this side of the House—the government—are doing. If the opposition are serious about this issue, as they say they are, the only thing they can do is try to add value and support the government's rollout of the expert recommendations.

We are committed to implementing all of the recommendations. The Australian people want this fixed. Unfortunately, this has been infected by the opposition. It has been infected since 2000, when we saw the politics of the Tampa and the politics of the children overboard affair. We remember.

The expert panel has said that Malaysia is absolutely vital to the success of this report. This is a very important issue that we need to solve. We need to ensure that we implement these policies to stop people boarding those boats and putting their lives at risk and to stop seeing people drown at sea. We know that this whole policy is all about preventing lives being lost. (Time expired)