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Thursday, 6 December 2018
Page: 57


Senator ABETZ (Tasmania) (13:33): The Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2018 is deserving of the Senate's support. The amendments proposed by Senator Storer and the Greens do not deserve the support of the Senate. At the commencement of my remarks, can I foreshadow to the Senate that, on behalf of Senator Cormann, I will move that at the end of the motion we add:

"and that further consideration of this bill be deferred until after the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security has inquired and reported into all of the amendments circulated on this Bill by no later than 30 March 2019".

The ongoing updating of legislation to keep it relevant is vital, and that is what this bill seeks to do in relation to matters Home Affairs. As circumstances and technology change, so our legislative framework needs to keep up to date. The measures of this bill are clearly outlined in the explanatory memorandum and in the minister's second reading speech, the salient points of which are ensuring more workable arrangements for the removal of noncitizens, allowing correspondence to be forwarded online along with a few financial matters. What is of concern are the amendments that are being proposed, which would significantly weaken our border protection.

Fundamental to any nation-state is its capacity to control its borders. As Australians, we have a right to determine who comes to our country and the circumstances in which they come. If we can't, we have lost the right to call ourselves a sovereign nation. Australia's intake of non-Australians should be undertaken on the basis of clear and understandable guidelines. The first should be Australia's need for labour, particular skills and the capacity to provide a source of not domestically available labour.

Today, Australia is suffering from population stress when it comes to housing, infrastructure and jobs. That is why the Liberal government is correct in limiting the intake, which, at this time, is an issue on which Labor and the Greens are, it would appear, in a frozen policy zone—frozen because they have no policy of their own to offer the people of Australia, and they aren't able to bring themselves to fully embrace that which is common sense.

But, as a generous nation, we also have a refugee intake, which should also be tailored to deal with Australia's needs and capacity to integrate the refugees into Australia's society and culture. And, as a generous people, we should take people on the basis of need, not greed, on the basis of genuine refugee status, not on the capacity to pay criminal people smugglers. This is one of the few areas of social policy where it beats me as to why Labor and the Greens, but the Greens in particular, continue to assert that, if you've got the money to gatecrash Australia, you should be given precedence over those who don't have the money to gatecrash Australia. Where is the social justice in that? There is none whatsoever. That is completely devoid of social justice, and, might I add, completely devoid of compassion for those who do not have the financial resources. There is no doubt that Australia's generosity is being gamed. And what we have in relation to Nauru is a disgraceful attempt by the Greens, in particular, and some in the Labor Party to play the game of virtue-signalling whilst completely ignoring the very real and obvious consequences of doing so.

I listened to Senator Storer's contribution, and he talked about the crisis of health on Nauru. Well, the number of medical practitioners funded by the Australian taxpayer on Nauru would be the envy of most Australians, especially in regional areas of Australia. They are being exceptionally well serviced. Senator Storer referred to the 12 people who died in offshore detention. Strangely, he omitted the 100 times that number—1,200 people—who drowned at the hands of criminal people smugglers. But these figures, these matters, are just airbrushed out of the debate, out of the public discourse, so that people can continue their virtue-signalling.

Then we were told about those who had been there for five years. I have visited refugee camps where people have been there for 15 and 20 years. Where are the Australian doctors and others who seek to go there and do a psychoanalysis of the trauma occasioned to people being in those camps that are not air-conditioned, where often they don't get three square meals a day and where the medical support is exceptionally limited, if there is any at all? And somehow the people in Nauru are living in a hellhole? Excuse me: if it genuinely is a hellhole, does that mean we should repatriate every single person off Nauru? Of course not. In fact, the sorts of comments that emanate from the Australian Greens in relation to the lifestyle on their island are offensive to the Nauruan people—1,500 Nauruan-born children have the medical and health system that is there. It seems as though that's good enough for the Nauruans, but the enhanced medical support for the boat people, the illegal maritime arrivals, is somehow a hellhole. That is why I would invite those who use this language to genuinely consider what they're saying and the consequences of what they're saying. Is it able to withstand robust questioning? Is it able to withstand robust analysis? The simple fact is that every death is a matter of regret, but why one focuses on 12 in detention and airbrushes out 1,200 at sea—100 times the number—courtesy of criminal people smugglers is, I've got to say, a matter that I cannot quite equate. Then the question is: how many people die in the refugee camps? We don't even know, because we're not even interested. But of course that's somehow a sense of compassion.

Getting to the point of the Greens amendments, let's have a look at the medical evacuations that certain people are trying to manipulate when they gain Australia's generosity. This is a real case, and I invite the Greens and Senator Storer and others to listen in. Recently, international doctors on Nauru demanded an Iranian asylum seeker be medically evacuated to Australia because she was in so much pain. It cost $100,000 for the Australian taxpayer. The medical people thought, 'If there's so much pain, put her on a commercial flight.' But, no, Maurice Blackburn, that well-known Labor law firm got involved and sought a court order that she be transported by air ambulance. She was transported by air ambulance to Brisbane on 22 October and taken to a hospital. After a number of tests she was discharged, having been diagnosed with constipation—a medical emergency that required air ambulance! This is the gaming of Australian generosity in a completely unprincipled manner. Guess what? She found herself in Australia and she remains in Australia, and it is expected that a Federal Court injunction will be filed on her behalf. This is the gaming of the system. It is a real, live case—a real example. These are amendments being supported—possibly unwittingly, in relation to Senator Storer; I'll give him the benefit of the doubt—by the Greens, knowing that people are gaming the system in this horrendous way. I say to the Greens and to Senator Storer, because I've never had a discussion with him about this, that when I visited the refugee camps in western Thailand, the very first question I was asked as I arrived by one of the people who was able to speak English was: 'Why is it that Australia allows boat people to displace us, when we have such difficulty in being settled elsewhere in the world?'

I remember being in the electorate of Mallee, with a good member there, Mr Andrew Broad, speaking to the Korean people. A man there, who had come from the Korean people, was in tears, telling me that he was going to the airport to pick up his brother, who had finally been given refugee status in Australia, and they were going to be reunited. Earlier on that day, he had told me that he had been in Australia for four years and prior to that he had been in the refugee camp for 15 years. So I asked him whether he had arrived in the refugee camp at the same time, and the answer was yes. So I did the maths: here was a man who, for 19 years, was recognised as a refugee but was unable to be placed. Those refugees in Australia fully understand our border protection policy, because we allow people who have been waiting for 19 years to finally gain entry.

I say to Senator Storer and other well-meaning individuals in this place: be concerned about people who have no future for five years, but where is your heart for those who have been waiting nearly four times that period? If you had compassion for them, I might be able to understand what motivates. But, when you seek to champion the cause of the Iranian lady that I just referred to—costing the taxpayer $100,000 for a simple case of constipation—and then allowing her to make a Federal Court application to stay in Australia, that is gaming of the system that the Australian people don't want.

The Australian heart is generous. The Australian people want to support refugees, but they want to support those who are genuinely in need, not those who have never set a foot in a refugee camp and have bypassed refugee camp after refugee camp and safe asylum so that they can forum-shop with a pocket full of money that they've got and pay a people smuggler to advance their cause. My heart, my commitment, is more directed to those who don't have the money nor have the moral compass to engage criminals to support their cause. I believe that the bill is worthy of support.