House debates

Monday, 3 June 2013


National Security

3:23 pm

Photo of Brendan O'ConnorBrendan O'Connor (Gorton, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) Share this | Hansard source

Well, clearly, he is not there to support the experts. He has never been there to support a plan that would reduce boats. Indeed, he wants to see more boats come. He wants to see more boats come and rubs his hands every time a vessel arrives in our waters.

This was obviously made even clearer last Friday. Last Friday, the Indonesian ambassador made it very clear that they will not support the opposition leader's plan to turn back boats. He made it unequivocally clear. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition may seek to make a liar of the Indonesian ambassador, but I have to say: it is a pretty outrageous thing to verbal the Indonesian ambassador in such a way.

The Leader of the Opposition is in a situation where he effectively says yes to the country that says no, Indonesia, and no to the country that says yes, Malaysia. What a ridiculous situation! We have a transit country, Malaysia, that wants to transfer arrivals in a safe manner. But the Leader of the Opposition says no to it! Yet we have a country that does not want to see an unsafe way to transfer arrivals on the high seas, in the case of Indonesia, and the opposition leader pretends he has an agreement. Well, if we want to have a debate about national security, let us talk about the lack of responsibility and leadership by the opposition leader in dealing with transit countries and countries in our region in order to put in place a very important regional response to what is a complex regional problem.

We do not have that, of course, because we do not have a compact in this parliament, and we do not have a compact in this parliament because the Leader of the Opposition has yet again refused to accept the advice of the experts. If I were to consider who I might take advice from, would I be taking it from the former chief of the Australian Defence Force, appointed by the Howard government and this government; Michael L'Estrange, a very eminent diplomat and former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; and Paris Aristotle, with 25 years of refugee settlement history—three eminent Australians coming from different positions, putting a perspective, and forging recommendations for us to consider? And all we get from the opposition leader is: 'No, no, no.' That, of course, has really been exposed as being an absolutely hollow shell, because last Friday the Indonesian ambassador made it very, very clear that that unsafe proposition—unsafe, as has been advised by the chief of our Navy—to turn back boats on the high seas is unacceptable to the Indonesian government, and will not fly. That proposition—


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