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Wednesday, 9 November 2016
Page: 3323

Mr ROBERT (Fadden) (13:00): The coalition's border protection policies have successfully stopped the boats. They have ended the numerous deaths at sea and removed all children from detention. These are facts. They are not controversial and they are not open for debate. The three central pillars of the coalition's border protection policies that have delivered this outstanding result are: turn-backs where it is safe to do so—and there have been 28 or 29 of those on the public record; temporary protection visas; and regional processing. These pillars do not work in isolation. They never have. They are a policy suite. They work together. They complement and enhance each other. None would have succeeded in isolation, but together they have ended the disaster, the tragedy, the desperation, at sea. Removing, changing or making amendments to any one of them will actually destroy the very foundation that Operation Sovereign Borders has put in place in protecting our sovereignty.

I am well aware of how this works. I worked with Scott Morrison, the then shadow immigration minister, in opposition to put together the plan that worked. I introduced Major General Jim Molan to the coalition, and together we worked up the military options and the military plan that would eventually take shape to achieve what has been done to the north of our border. But, notwithstanding the success of the planning, the implementation and the execution of Operation Sovereign Borders, people smugglers will continue, and are continuing, to take advantage of vulnerable people by trying to convince them to get on boats to Australia. Right now, as we speak, there are 14,000 people waiting in Indonesia to board people-smuggling boats to Australia, while the people smugglers know full well that they will never settle in Australia. But the people smugglers are a vile lot, so vile.

If you think about where offshore detention started, it started under a Labor government. They put in place offshore detention. It was Bolkus—serious Left organisers. The current Left organisers in the Labor Party are pathetic. They do not know what they believe. The serious Left organisers understood the vermin that are the people smugglers. They understood that these groups moved down child sex slaves, drugs, guns—the most heinous of crimes they are involved in. Bolkus and co., the Hard Left organisers, quickly understood exactly what was happening and they put in place regional processing because they knew they had to stop the horror of the people-smuggling business. That, of course, finished with the Rudd years, but that bloc is now being put back again.

This bill, the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016, amends the Migration Act 1958 and the Migration Regulations 1994 to prevent illegal maritime arrivals, IMAs, who were at least 18 years of age and were taken to a regional processing country after 19 July 2013 from making a valid application for an Australian visa. It prohibits them from ever, ever, ever doing so. By the way, this is the date that Kevin Rudd signed the regional resettlement arrangement with Papua New Guinea. He declared, with the full support of those opposite:

As of today, asylum seekers who come by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia.

We give practical application to those words. Labor is good at hollow words. It is marvellous at gesture and identity politics. We are good at actually implementing words and making sure they mean something. This legislation applies to people who: are currently in a regional processing centre; have left a regional processing country and are in another one; are in Australia awaiting transfer back to a regional processing country; or are taken to a regional processing country in the future.

The amendments, of course, will include a personal power of the minister to permit a member of this cohort or a class of persons to make a valid application for a visa if the minister thinks it is in the public interest. This is a power the minister has right now, and he exercises it literally every day to allow people to enter the country. Those opposite come up with ridiculous statements like: 'If an immigrant goes to New Zealand, gets elected to parliament and becomes the Speaker, he can't come and visit.' What a nonsense. That is what ministerial direction is all about. That is what ministerial power is all about. Another ridiculous example was given: 'What if an asylum seeker goes to America and creates the next Google, the next start-up, and wants to come to Australia?' That is what ministerial discretion is all about. All of these truism-type shibboleths are thrown up as straw men by those opposite. They are and will be complete and utter rubbish because of the discretional power of the minister. We all know that. Those who have served know that.

The bottom line is: preventing irregular maritime arrivals in the regional processing cohort from applying for a visa to Australia will remove the risk of noncitizens circumventing our border security policies. Under current legislation, people in the regional processing cohort can actually validly apply for and be granted a range of visas, and the government is aware of a number of people in this cohort who have already done this and, in some cases, travelled to Australia. If people are granted visas and travel here, it will only encourage other people in the cohort to also pursue Australian visas in the hope of longer term settlement. Further, if people have voluntarily returned home or volunteered to settle in a third country and if they are able to subsequently travel here to Australia on a tourist visa, it will undermine our assistance in their return and reintegration processes and it will provide a backdoor way of circumventing the government's position. As the minister has already stated, we are now seeing another line coming through, where people are looking to get marriage visas as a way for them to enter Australia, again circuitously, through this back door.

This bill will communicate to those irregular maritime arrivals in regional processing countries that they will never, ever, ever settle permanently in Australia. No matter what the advocates say, no matter what the refugee advocates try to imply and no matter what the vile people smugglers say, this will make it abundantly, patently, blatantly, completely and totally clear that they will never, ever, ever settle permanently in Australia and that those people should engage with the governments of Nauru and Papua New Guinea to take up the return and resettlement packages available to them. IMAs on Papua New Guinea found to be refugees can settle in Papua New Guinea, IMAs on Nauru found to be refugees can settle in Cambodia and IMAs found not to be refugees should depart voluntarily now.

Let us not forget the history of this—and history is important. If we do not remember history, we will repeat the mistakes of the past, and history in this case is not that long ago. When Labor came to power in 2007, there were four—just four—IMAs, irregular maritime arrivals, in detention and none were children. Labor proceeded to tear down the Howard government's successful border protection policies. They thought they were no longer needed. We have heard the rhetoric this week alone, 'Oh, it's been over 800 days since anyone's arrived. We don't need to do that anymore.' Despite the fact that Rudd and Labor said during the 2007 election campaign that they would turn back boats, Rudd never did any of that. He sought the applause of the Left. Of course, he pulled apart the successful border policies, and what we saw was complete and utter chaos.

The facts are startling and the facts are not in dispute. Fifty thousand illegal maritime arrivals came on over 800 boats. The Labor Party were putting out press release after press release, every single day. Eight thousand children were put in detention by those opposite. Let us not forget the result of the chaos that they caused, nor forget the fact that, during the election we just went through, over 50 per cent of those opposite opposed our successful border protection policies and wanted them changed, even though what they were advocating for had led to 50,000 illegal arrivals and 8,000 children in detention. Those opposite opened 17 detention centres and two offshore processing centres. One thousand two hundred people died at sea as a minimum. That is a result of the chaos that those opposite started. These are facts and they are not open to dispute. There was an $11 billion budget blowout.

So the coalition implemented its suite of policies, and the result is quite simple, is quite stark and is not in contention. The chaos has ended; our borders are secure. There have been zero deaths at sea. There have been over 830 days without a boat arrival. Every child has been removed from detention. Those opposite put 8,000 in detention. Seventeen onshore detention centres have been closed. Our humanitarian intake, because of what we have done, has increased from 13,750 to 18,750. Let us not forget that the chaos of the Rudd-Gillard years on border protection got to the point where there were so many people arriving, self-selecting through people-smuggling networks, that Labor closed the entire humanitarian intake for those desperately in need and filled it predominantly with Islamic fighting-age males that had come from Afghanistan and the region into Pakistan, and travelled across Pakistan into Malaysia, from Malaysia to Indonesia, and from Indonesia down to Australia.

The law of the UNHCR and the 1967 convention is very clear: you seek asylum in your first country of safety. If you have fled Afghanistan and you are in Pakistan, surely you are free. If you have fled Pakistan to Malaysia, surely what you are fleeing from in Afghanistan has ended because you are now in a third country. Surely you are free. When you travel from Malaysia to Indonesia, in many cases flying from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta, surely in that fourth Islamic country you are free. But they pay people smugglers to come to Australia. That, in any definition, is not fleeing persecution; that is seeking a better economic life—and that is not in contention either. Because of what we have done, there are no lives lost at sea. We are able to increase the humanitarian refugee program where those opposite saw it decrease to zero. We have been able to provide 12,000 spots during the Syrian crisis for a special one-off intake because we have secured our borders, and that is the benefit of the work we have done.

The great tragedy of all this is: Labor has learned nothing from these mistakes. Some of the old guard have—there is no question about it. Some of the older members among those opposite knew the original Bolkus and Labor hard Left—the real organisers—and knew a thing or two about the vile scum that moved through in the people-smuggling network, but most of them have learned nothing.

This bill reflects the government's longstanding position, and we used to understand it as a bipartisan position, or that was the point Labor made during the election, anyway—that IMAs who have been sent to a regional processing country will never, ever, ever be settled permanently in Australia. Those opposite no longer believe it. I guess the election has passed. We can all move on. It is a bit like superannuation, really. Their super policy was costed the same as ours, except for the extra $1.4 billion in tax announced yesterday. I remember, of course, Peter Garrett making the point in 2007. What did he say? 'When we get in, we'll just change at all. We'll just change everything.' It is very typical.

By not supporting this legislation, Mr Shorten has shown that his word during the election was false—it was a lie. It is quite simple. When Mr Shorten made it very clear that there is a cigarette paper's difference between Labor and us—

Mr Brian Mitchell: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would ask the member to refer to members by their correct titles.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Broadbent ): I call the member for Fadden.

Mr ROBERT: The Leader of the Opposition made it very clear during the election that there was a cigarette paper's difference between the government and the opposition. We now know that to be a lie. A great, big, red, bald-faced lie is what it was, and it is a lie told by every single one—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Fadden!

Mr ROBERT: I withdraw, Mr Deputy Speaker. It was a gross untruth perpetrated by all of those opposite, who knew full well that they did not believe in the border protection regime that we have. Those opposite, including the Leader of the Opposition, have shown that their word on this issue means nothing. If those opposite were serious about border protection, they would support the bill. They would make it very clear to those seeking to come to Australia illegally that you will never, ever, ever permanently migrate here. The Leader of the Opposition is making the same mistake that Kevin Rudd made. History will show that, where there are weak borders, people smugglers will flow people in. It is not good enough to do what the member for Isaacs did in the 2013 election, quoting temporaneous circumstance and spending public money to advertise in The Sydney Morning Herald that no-one will ever come here. Remember that?

An honourable member: A full page.

Mr ROBERT: It was a full page—millions and millions of dollars of taxpayers' money—to try and win votes. It was a most disgusting act by the member for Isaacs. That will not work. Only a suite of policies works. The opposition should know better.