Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 9 November 2016
Page: 3327

Mr SNOWDON (Lingiari) (13:15): It is a great pleasure for me to be here, and to see you sitting in the chair, Mr Acting Deputy Speaker Broadbent. I don't know about the bloke who just spoke though! Nevertheless, I respect the right of the member for Fadden to express his view. I do not have to agree with him, and I do not.

I want to make some observations, though, about history. You see, I have been here a fair while and I well recall events in this place from the late eighties around immigration, the Tampa and the children overboard and then subsequent events leading up to today. What I recall most vividly—and I heard the member for Grey extolling the virtues of former Prime Minister John Howard—to their great shame and everlasting disgrace, is the children overboard. Do you remember the children overboard? I do. You will remember HMAS Adelaide—the ship that was used—and its personnel rescuing people because their vessel had sunk. That was not what the parliament was told and that was not what the people of Australia were told.

Do you remember who the Minister for Defence was at the time? It was Mr Reith. Do you remember him and the Prime Minister showing a photograph of a person on a boat holding up a child and saying that this was about throwing children overboard? That was a lie that I was able to expose. How was I able to expose it? I exposed it accidently. I got handed a disc with 348 photographs of the events of that day taken by Navy personnel which demonstrated absolutely clearly that there were no children thrown overboard. What this was about was people seeking to save their children as the result of a vessel sinking. To their absolute disgrace, the government used it politically to demonize those people seeking to come to this place by sea, accused them of wanting to kill their children as a matter of blackmailing the community into saying, 'Well, let's bring them in,' when, in fact, what we saw where the courageous efforts of Australian naval personnel rescuing people who were dying as a result of a vessel sinking.

None of us in this place, least of all me—Christmas Island, after all, being part of my electorate—sanctions people coming here by sea illegally; none of us. And to think that the government could, as they continually do on a daily basis, accuse the opposition of being soft on people smugglers, that somehow we want to assist people smugglers to restart their nefarious trade to provide the opportunity for young people, older people and children to die at sea yet again, is an absolute insult and an insult to all Australians. I recall the days after the most recent tragedy when we were in government and my friend, Mr O'Connor—who was then the minister responsible—was on Christmas Island and saw the events that happened that day. In the weeks that followed I was there at memorial services. No-one—no-one—can get over the sadness of those events. To have the government try and perpetrate the perfidious lie that somehow we on this side of the parliament, by our actions in opposing this legislation, somehow or other assist people smugglers is to degrade the public debate in this country.

I am sorry, Mr Acting Deputy Speaker; I know what a good person you are. But, unfortunately, it is in the DNA of some in your party to use these events for gross political purposes, knowing factually and truthfully that what they are representing is wrong. Yesterday, the debate in the parliament during question time was most unedifying. The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection was grandstanding—as he is wont to do—and making gross accusations that he knows to be false, supported by the Prime Minister, who came to this place with the expectation of the Australian community that he was somehow or other different when he is not. He is just the same. Threatened or whatever by people in his own party over his leadership, he sinks to the lowest-common denominator. We have seen that in the parliament time and time again.

Of course now we have the very, very unedifying spectacle of him being exposed by the former Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, over claims by the Prime Minister that he sought to beg the then Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, over the issue of asylum seekers. Mr Rudd refutes those assertions and makes it very clear that if there is a lie being told it is not by him but by the Prime Minister. That raises a spectacle which is, again, unedifying, but yet it demonstrates again that truth will not prevail in this place where people are seen to use people who are in this case, on Manus Island and on Nauru as political cannon fodder—because that is what is happening again.

Let us be very, very clear. On 19 July 2013 the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced our policy—the then Labor policy—that would ensure that no asylum seeker who came by boat to Australia would ever settle in Australia. He said:

From now on, any asylum-seeker who arrives in Australia by boat will have no chance of being settled in Australia as refugees.

Our position on this piece of legislation is totally consistent with that claim—totally consistent. There is nothing in what we are saying about this current piece of legislation to put forward the proposition that somehow or another, should someone who is currently on Nauru or Manus seek and become a third-party national—in other words, they go to another country and become a citizen of that country—and then should they seek to come to Australia and settle they would not be allowed to. That is consistent. That is absolutely consistent with the proposition which was put then in 2013 by former Prime Minister Rudd.

What we are being told is that people who might want to come here on a tourist visa some time in the future, or to come and visit family sometime in the future, somehow or another equates to resettlement. No-one in this place understands that argument, because clearly it is wrong.

Mr Howarth: Obviously not.

Mr SNOWDON: Well, you certainly do not. When you visit the United States, or wherever you might visit overseas, do you go there to resettle? If you are on a tourist visa, do you get the right to resettle?

Mr Howarth: You are weak!

Mr SNOWDON: Don't be a clown! Don't be a clown!

Mr Howarth: You are weak!

Mr SNOWDON: And that's the problem. We see in this place people who are so insincere that they will say anything because they want to prosecute an argument that somehow or another says that the Australian Labor Party is in support of people smugglers. Well, you know it is not true. Yet you will continue to prosecute that perfidious argument. And I reckon the Australian community are wise to you. They have woken—

Mr Howarth: I don't think so.

Mr SNOWDON: Oh, they are not wise to you?

Mr Howarth: Not to you.

Mr SNOWDON: I will tell you what, son, I have news for you, brother: they have absolutely pinged you and they have pinged the Prime Minister and they have pinged the immigration minister. They know precisely what is being said here in this parliament—that the debate that we are seeing here is a construct to try and elevate the Prime Minister's political standing and try to appeal to the grossest elements in the government. The Tea Party elements of the government are ruling the government. The Tea Party elements are determining what the policy should be. The Tea Party elements, with great respect to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, of the government are determining that the arguments that should be put in this place are ones that demonise people seeking asylum in this country and ones that demonise the Labor Party for having the temerity to say that it is improper, inappropriate and wrong to say that people who are currently residing in Nauru or Manus and may want to come here at some future date on a tourist visa should be prevented from doing so.

Mr Howarth: That's right.

Mr SNOWDON: 'That's right,' he says. Not here to resettle but to visit Bondi! 'Well, I can't have you.' You might be wealthy and you might be settled in New Zealand, Canada, the United States, Brazil, Argentina or wherever, but don't think you can come here and surf. You are not going to be allowed to. Don't think you can come here and visit Uluru—which I would love you to do because we like that tourist dollar. We can't have you. Why can't we have you? Because, you poor bugger, at some point in your life you were on Nauru or Manus, and we did not want you because you came here illegally by boat. So, as a result of that, don't you think you can come and visit Uluru or go surfing at Bondi, because you will not be allowed. You mugs. You absolute mugs.

Mr Howarth: No, you're the mug.

Mr SNOWDON: What an insult to the intelligence of the Australian community you are. And you think, somehow, that this gratifying and elevating argument is something we should all support.

Let's understand what others think. Amnesty International has said:

There was a time when Australia led the way on refugee protection.

Following World War II, Australia came second only to the United States on resettling European refugees. Its signature brought the Refugee Convention into force a few years later. And, in the 1970s, it resettled the third highest number of Indochinese refugees following the wars there.

In October 2016, the Turnbull government attempted, before backing down, to introduce laws that would imprison for up to two years doctors, nurses, counsellors and other health professionals if they publicly revealed physical or sexual abuse or medical negligence in Australia's offshore detention centres. How do you equate that with someone who respects human dignity? How do you equate that?

We know that that position is consistent with their current opposition to preventing people visiting Nauru and Manus Island to understand the situation which currently exists—preventing journalists and politicians travelling freely to visit these places and to interview people to get a first-hand account. The secrecy and lack of transparency is mind-boggling. And what is it for? What is it to hide? A corruption of a process by a political party that is so inept that it cannot come to terms with its obligations to treat people respectfully and with dignity. That is what this is ultimately about—understanding that people need to be treated with dignity, humanity, civilly and respectfully.

These people may be there, unfortunately, on Manus and Nauru. Most of them there would be seen as genuine refugees. We will have them resettled somewhere else. Even though they are genuine refugees, when they are—

Mr Howarth: They're not genuine.

Mr SNOWDON: They're not genuine refugees? You are such an idiot. You are such an idiot. Even though they are refugees, what will happen when they go to this third country and seek to come to Australia for a family visitation or, as I say, to surf at Bondi or to visit Uluru? You are going to say no. That deplorable situation should not be allowed to prevail. We will not let it because we are going to oppose this legislation. I hope that we have sufficient votes in the Senate to make sure that this legislation fails in the Senate, as it should fail here. People with respect for human dignity and for the human condition have to respect the human rights of every individual. I hope people on that side of the chamber will join with the Labor Party and oppose this legislation.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Coulton ): The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour.