House debates

Thursday, 6 December 2018



3:17 pm

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Attorney-General) Share this | Hansard source

The member for McMahon used the words 'cheap political stunt'. That is like Darth Vader giving a parenting class—having them accuse anyone in this place of a cheap political stunt. Let's work out why they are trying to suspend standing orders at exactly the time that they did, during question time. It is because they did not want to face another question on border protection. There is a stunt going on, and it is one that they've orchestrated in the other place. There'll be a price for that stunt, and it won't be cheap. That's why they are here now trying to divert attention away from the fact that their own stunt is blowing up in their face. Every Australian is being reminded of the absolute diabolical tragedy that occurred under their watch, under their policies. And what's the stunt that's going on? They are up there now trying to have a home affairs bill, in the portfolio of which I have stewardship at the moment—polluted with amendments that relate to medical transfer from Nauru—brought back down to this House. Why are they doing that? To try to cause some modest procedural embarrassment to the government. What's the price of that? The price of that is to fundamentally destroy one of the three central pillars of a policy that has stopped children drowning at sea. That's why they're quiet now, that's why they were quiet in question time and that's why they've moved this suspension of standing orders motion—so they wouldn't have to hear it anymore. Well, they're going to hear it a little bit more.

And let's talk about what an utter and diabolical disaster their policy was. There's a place in WA called Geraldton, 2½ thousand kilometres from Christmas Island. On 10 April 2013, 2½ thousand kilometres from Christmas Island and in fact not very far from Perth—a holiday destination for people who live in Perth—would you believe the surprise of the people in Geraldton who were having cups of tea, literally, at the cafe when they looked up and saw an asylum-seeker vessel with 66 men, women and children arrive at the doorstep of Geraldton? And do you know what? They were the lucky ones, because they made it here. They also, of course, ended up in detention, including the children, but there were so many who drowned at sea. That's why we've got this stunt. That's why we've had stunts all week—because it's blown up in their faces. Bring your bill back down here. Let's talk about it. Let's debate it. Let's remind every Australian what it is that you did, what it is that you were responsible for. Because if you support and align with the crossbench, if you do that to revert to the policies that you had, the inevitable result is drownings at sea. We will never, ever let that happen again. Do you know what happened when that boat arrived at Geraldton? The member was the minister. The home affairs minister at the time released a press release. Do you know what it said? He said that they would respond to the arrival. Well, thank you very much. Everyone must have been breathing a sigh of relief. They would respond to the arrival of 66 people—the lucky ones who made it; the lucky ones who ended up in detention; the children that ended up in detention, 8,000 of them.

As we have heard today, the cost wasn't just human, although that cost was utterly devastating and tragic. The cost was economic. It cost $16 billion for the taxpayers of Australia to fund that disaster, which they want to run away from, which they never want to talk about again, and which they stupidly put back on the agenda. They put their policy and our discussion of their policy back on the agenda to talk about and for the Australian people to see and remember the disaster and the tragedy. $16 billion—if you don't think that makes a difference, in my portfolio of Attorney-General, we run the entire justice and court system, including legal assistance funding, for $1.2 billion. With the money that you wasted in a policy that lives were lost under you could fund the entire court and justice system in Australia for 16 years. Sixteen years with the money that you wasted propping up a policy that caused the deaths of children. And now, in a stunt, you want to try and unravel the successful response to those years of disaster.

Another thing that you've done today is delay a bill that you agreed would go through the House yesterday and that you agreed the parliamentary joint committee would respond to and report on yesterday morning. You delayed it here, contrary to your agreement. You did that because you thought it gave you some kind of strategic advantage in bringing a bill back to this place which would unravel border protection. So here you are, delaying a bill meant to keep Australians safe from terrorists by allowing our law enforcement agencies to have appropriate powers to get into encrypted systems. You are delaying that national security bill in order to have a tactical win on a bill that would destroy another plank of Australia's national security and border protection. How bad can it get? How dishonest can you be? How much can you rely on using stunts which blow up in your face to try and embarrass a government? The only people you've embarrassed are yourselves. You've shown exactly who you are and what you're made of it, and it doesn't do anything for any man, woman or child.

Australia needs strong border protection. That is what we have given this country for five years. Right now, up there and behind the doors of your offices, you are trying do deals, destroy legislation and undo the protection that we have offered for the Australian people at their borders, for the people who are the victims of people smugglers. What you are doing is an absolute disgrace. It goes to the very core of the way that you conduct politics and the very core of your failure to understand what is necessary to protect Australia's borders. This has been stunt upon stunt upon stunt. It's blown up in your face and you know it. If you want to have an argument about border protection, bring it on. Bring it on every day between now and the election, because the Australian people need to know what you will do if you ever got your hands back on that policy again. It will result in the deaths of children at sea.


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