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Thursday, 22 November 2012
Page: 9541

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryDeputy Leader of The Nationals) (15:14): I have to say it is fairly nauseating to get lectured by those on the other side, particularly Senator Crossin, on picking policy. Can you imagine that—getting lectured by them about picking policy? It is now some 14 weeks—over three months—since Nauru opened. This is one successful policy of the Howard government. We say, 'Congratulations on accepting one policy out of a trilogy of success.' But remember that, to get a car, or anything, to move forward, you need three things to happen: the handbrake needs to be off, there needs to be air in the tyres and there needs to be petrol in the tank. If you fail on one of those three things, there is no movement. If you fail on two of them, I suspect there will be no movement either. It is a little bit like having a trifecta bet, going up to the bookie and saying, 'One of them came home; can I have my money.' It is just not going to cut it.

This is not some academic report that is suggesting, 'If you do all of these things, it'll be a miracle; that's never been tried.' We had a policy that ended up with us having absolutely no boats: temporary protection visas, offshore processing and turning the boats back where it is safe to do so. This has been tested. Three months ago, the government accepted one of our policies. What has happened? What are we going to measure it on? What about how many people have arrived? Since that date the policy has not worked, because we have had record numbers of people. We have had over 2,000 people a month. More people than the QE2 carries are arriving on Christmas Island every month. You have to say, 'I don't think this is really working for me.' If the intention was to stop people, clearly that policy has not worked. Since 14 August, 7,716 people have arrived.

So the government have tinkered around a bit and said, 'I know: instead of temporary protection visas'—which we need, as they are a clear disincentive—'we will call them bridging visas.' But they are not actually even a bridging visa; they are a new type of bridging visa. They are a recurring bridging visa, which basically means we are not waiting for some particular thing to happen. It is a bit like going to the chemist for a script. You are going to get one every time. You do not even have to turn up. So they are a special sort of bridging visa, a Clayton's bridging visa—the bridging visa you have when you do not have a bridging visa. This basically means you can stay forever. But not only do you have a reasonable expectation under those circumstances of permanent residency—which one might understand is quite reasonable if you are a refugee—but these are not even refugees. They are asylum seekers that now have the little green pad of a recurring 'I'll stay forever' bridging visa.

The whole idea of this package of policies was as a disincentive package. We sympathise with the 14½-odd million people who seek a migration outcome or a movement outcome on this globe; of course we do. But we have also decided that we would like to have them move in an orderly way. We have a list of people who are priorities set by the UNHCR, primarily from the Horn of Africa. These people are in the most horrendous circumstances. We do not want people to get on boats, so we must create and stick by a significant disincentive package. So how can it possibly be a disincentive when we muck about with this by saying, 'We don't want to offend people—we have to keep the Greens happy, and there are a couple of people in this electorate we want to keep happy—so what we'll do is talk about a new bridging visa which does absolutely nothing as a disincentive'? What is the acid test? What do they think about that? They have come in droves—7,000 people in three months, which is just unthinkable. When we were in government, we would have just given the game away, and it seems that that is exactly what this government has done. All it does is spend money on more accommodation, borrowing more money to set more people up—because we have no chance of stopping them.

So all we have done is give up. We are not even investing our hard-earned dollars; the government has broken the economy's back to the extent that we borrow everything we spend. So all its investment simply goes into dealing with its lack of grunt and its lack of capacity to make a disincentive package; to stick with that disincentive package; to ensure that people do not get on the vessels; to assist those people who are the most vulnerable and, according to the UNHCR, need to be provided with assistance as soon as possible; and to ensure that the family reunion processes associated with that are given absolute priority. That is what this government should be doing, and it has failed.