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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 5074

Senator SINGH (Tasmania) (15:19): Today is not a day about proclaiming political wins. It is a day when all sides of politics have to stop the blame game, the political point-scoring and rise above all those arguments for the basis of humanity. Senator Scullion talks about dignity. Senator Cash's contribution to this previously was anything but dignified. In fact, the Hansard will record in history—

Senator Cormann: You are responsible. Don't you understand responsibility and accountability?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order on my left!

Senator SINGH: that the contribution by Senator Cash on this matter was anything but dignified; in fact, I would have to say it was probably one of the most appalling contributions she has made to this Senate. It is because she has chosen to politicise this issue when we have now heard from an independent expert panel that has come out with a report that the government has in principle accepted which breaks the political deadlock and ends the politics. Instead of that, Senator Cash has to start the politics all over again and cherry pick the parts of the Houston report which suit her best.

One thing that the expert panel made very clear is that the report should be taken as a package. The recommendations within the report should be taken as a package and should not be cherry picked. In fact, if one is to cherry pick as Senator Cash done and look at Manus Island, Nauru or PNG, they in fact are a very small part of this report—a very small part of a very broad package about how we address the issue of those seeking asylum in this country.

One very important part of the package which Senator Cash chooses to overlook because it does not suit her political point-scoring is that the Houston report looks at increasing our humanitarian intake to 20,000 and, in five years, eventually to 27,000. That is so significant that it actually makes Australia a country with one of the highest humanitarian intakes per capita in the world. I am proud to be part of a government that is going to increase the number of people who are able to seek asylum in this country by accepting the recommendation to increase our humanitarian intake to 20,000 and then to 27,000. That is what I want to see my government doing, and that is exactly what it will be doing.

We are a welcoming country. We welcome refugees to our country; we do not demonise and denigrate them. Under the Howard government, we had 11 years of demonising asylum seekers in this country and the ongoing politicisation that followed. That is why we continue to be in a political deadlock with the opposition. They continue to refuse everything that is put on the table. We have compromised. We have tried to negotiate and come to an agreement with the opposition; but, no, that does not suit their political games. Now that the expert panel has come out with a report, the opposition continue to find a way to politicise and demonise the process, the ultimate process, for those seeking asylum in this country. That is incredibly regrettable.

It is incredibly regrettable that Mr Abbott has not been able to resist that temptation, and neither has Senator Cash, here, today. In her contribution, she gave an appalling account of the issue of asylum seekers in this country. These are people in need. They are people who need very much our government's support, our parliament's support, to end the deadlock that has been at the heart of this issue. People in this place spoke very passionately and emotionally about this issue at the end of our June sittings, and it is now back with us at this time. Particularly in the last week of parliament, it was issue that we needed to address. (Time expired)