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Wednesday, 29 August 2001
Page: 30580


Mr DANBY (7:48 PM) —I joined the Labor Party because of the view that it was a great humanitarian party. I am very proud to stand here tonight, after the debate we have just had, as a representative in one seat for that party. I have a particular interest in the debate that took place. My father arrived in a refugee boat called the SS Strathallan in June 1939. My uncle arrived on an equally famous boat, the SS Dunera, many of the people from which have since made great contributions to Australian society.

There are many historical parallels that this House should be aware of in considering the issue before all Australian people tonight of the boat being taken back out into international waters by members of our armed forces. There are no historical parallels that are exact, but we should perhaps think about the situation before the Second World War of the very famous ship the St Louis. The St Louis left Nazi Germany and travelled down the coast of Florida. It attempted to dock in Havana and was refused permission. Eventually it had to steam back to Bremen in Germany. We know what unfortunately happened to the people in those circumstances. The then president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt—who was a truly great man, an international statesman and probably, with Winston Churchill, saved us from 1000 years of darkness through his defeat of Nazism—did not cover himself with a great deal of glory in allowing that ship to go up and down the American coast. I am afraid that, in the current circumstances, our Prime Minister risks having the same reputation.

Of course Australia needs to ensure that unauthorised arrivals are properly checked out. Of course we need to ensure our own sovereignty. Of course we need to make sure that either Malaysia—as the Prime Minister has accused Dr Mahathir tonight—or Indonesia are not letting people come to our country to disrupt our economy, and that not just anyone can be allowed to arrive in this country. But let us see this problem in its context. There have been 11,000 unauthorised arrivals in the five years of this government. That is about 2,000 a year. There were 1,500 throughout last year. We are a country of 20 million people. I am convinced of the generosity of spirit of the Australian people. I know of the generosity of spirit of our party—the opposition. I believe this is why our leader took the stance that he did tonight on the bill that will be further considered.

In other countries around the world there is a problem of unauthorised arrivals, and they are dealing with them too. The United States receives more than 500,000 people a year; Germany, 100,000; and the United Kingdom, around the same number. We have not seen the collapse of the United States, Germany or the United Kingdom. I think a mature Australian government has to put this problem to the Australian people in its context: 11,000 people in five years is nothing that should cause the Australian people to fear.

It is only a government that allows itself to be ruled by the talkback kings, particularly in Sydney, and the fear of certain voters in Queensland and regional New South Wales who vote for a certain political party, that I believe is distorting our national discussion on this issue. It is a very sad day, in my view, when the Australian armed forces are used for the purpose of dragging that ship out into international waters. I simply ask the question of the government: what do you imagine, members of the government, will happen now? When the SAS leave that ship, what will happen? What do you suggest happens to the ship—that it continues to float around from country to country? This is a very ill thought out idea of the government's, and they should be aware of the historical parallels.