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Tuesday, 8 November 2016
Page: 3128

Racial Discrimination Act 1975

Mr DREYFUS (IsaacsDeputy Manager of Opposition Business) (14:13): My question is to the Prime Minister. This morning the member for Bennelong said that watering down section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act is not a good use of the government's time and is causing fear. Why is the Prime Minister opening the door to changes that even his own MPs think are a waste of time?

Mr TURNBULL (WentworthPrime Minister) (14:14): The honourable member is obviously not paying any attention to what is now a very lively and active debate about the application of the provisions that he spoke about to some university students in Queensland and to a cartoonist from The Australian.

Ms Rowland interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Greenway is warned.

Mr TURNBULL: There is a lively debate about that, and as a barrister he would well understand the importance of free speech. What we have done is refer the matter to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. It is a committee of the parliament; it includes honourable members opposite and it includes senators. They will consider these issues and they will do so carefully and thoughtfully and respectfully. I expect that other parties with interests in this matter will make submissions to them. That is what parliament should do—it should listen to the people and it should enable them to make their submissions, and that is exact what is happening.

One area where the human rights of people are being neglected by honourable members opposite is with respect to the security of our borders.

Ms Plibersek interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Sydney will cease interjecting.

Mr TURNBULL: Let me say this to honourable members opposite: when your party was last in government, 1,200 and more people drowned at sea as a consequence of your policies.

Mr Rob Mitchell interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for McEwen is warned.

Mr TURNBULL: That was the inevitable consequence of your policies, and you recognised that you had failed and, at the last minute, you brought Kevin Rudd back.

The SPEAKER: The member for Isaacs, on a point of order?

Mr Dreyfus: Direct relevance, Mr Speaker.

The SPEAKER: The member for Isaacs will resume his seat. The Prime Minister is in order.

Mr TURNBULL: The Labor Party brought Kevin Rudd back, and at the last minute, just as he was about to go out of office, he said exactly what he had said just as he was about to go into office in 2007, which was that he agreed with the coalition's policy. Well, it was too late for the 1,200 who drowned, wasn't it? It was too late for them. No shame, no sense of conscience on the part of the Labor Party. That was the consequence. The Labor Party cannot escape the consequences of its failure. What we have done is stop the boats. We have stopped the drownings. We have ensured that children are not in detention, and we will continue to do that. We will not be lectured on human rights by a party that was so neglectful and so careless of the human rights of those who lost their lives at sea.

Ms Plibersek interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Sydney is now warned and has been warned a number of times in recent sitting days. That is as subtle as I can be.