Monday, 23 November 2009
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Would the Prime Minister tell the House whether he regards the recent surge in people smuggling as a serious problem? There have been 54 boats since he weakened our border protection policies in August 2008. If so, what is his plan to stop the people smugglers, or has his election promise to turn back the boats now become telling Australians to just get used to it?
It is good to see that the Ronaldson doctrine has now been elevated to the Leader of the Opposition—which is in the great Australian newspaper published email entitled ‘Digging dirt’ and says, ‘You don’t get news stories by trying to change perceptions, you get them by reinforcing stereotypes.’ That is what they are on about here. The Leader of the Opposition’s question goes to numbers. I would draw his attention to the following numbers. When it comes to the decrease in numbers worldwide from countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka in the early 2000s, they were as follows: between 2001 and 2003 the number of Iraqis claiming asylum globally dropped by 50 per cent, from 52,000 down to 27,000; the number from Afghanistan dropped by 73 per cent; and the number from Sri Lanka dropped by 61 per cent. This is the period in which those opposite say that, uniquely as a consequence of their particular approaches to the Pacific solution—temporary protection visas and the like—there was some ‘unique success’ in this country. They must have been uniquely successful in multiple countries around the world, because those figures are global numbers coming out of each of those countries. All of these global factors were at work and the numbers out of all three countries were coming down. The opposition then latch on to it and say, ‘It’s all because of us.’
And then of course we go to volume 2, which is what has been happening between 2005 and 2008. Guess what? The reverse occurs. The global increase in the number of Iraqis seeking asylum has gone up by 193 per cent. Secondly, the number of Afghans claiming asylum globally has gone up by 139 per cent. Furthermore, the number of Sri Lankans has gone up in that same period of time by 72 per cent—and the reason why that is occurring worldwide is because of security factors alive within those countries.
Mr Speaker, on the point of order: on every question so far today from the opposition, they have stood up and, in the guise of moving a point of order, have just repeated the question.
Mr Speaker, the figures are as I have just described them. They are discomforting for those opposite because they actually go to what has happened globally, both in the early 2000s and recently. Of course, the Leader of the Opposition knows that he is engaging in an exercise which, on the facts, is simply unsustainable.
Then we go to the question of policy responses. Here we have the policy responses announced by those opposite in their four-point plan on border protection which came out a week or so ago:
1.We will once again secure our borders.
Look for the detail—‘We will once again secure our borders.’ This is the same policy which in times past saw nearly 250 boats arrive in Australia carrying nearly 15,000 people—and they say, ‘We will once again secure our borders.’
2. All processing offshore.
Someone should remind the member for Murray that that is their policy because on two occasions, one last week and one this week, we have had a bit of a ‘blippo’—haven’t we, Member for Murray?—as she could not quite remember the script.
Then, three—here is one to hold the phone. Listen to this one; it is consistent with what we have heard this morning:
A compassionate and fair refugee and humanitarian program.
Compassionate and fair. Well, hold the phone! That one is really worthy of gaining the newspaper headlines. Then, policy no. 4:
A non-permanent visa for unauthorised arrivals.
The temporary protection visa by another name; that which they have been speaking about for some weeks. This is their recommendation by way of a border protection policy. The temporary protection visa; what is its track record? After they brought it in we saw nearly 10,000 people arrive in this country. Subsequently, we saw 90 per cent of those granted TPVs being provided with permanent residence in Australia. That is the great magic being offered by temporary protection visas.
Our approach is based on mandatory detention. Our approach is based on offshore processing on Christmas Island for vessels that we interdict on the high seas. Our policy is based on stringent ASIO assessment of the security profile of individuals. Our policy is based on stringent health assessment of the health profile of individuals. Our policy is based on those who are not deemed to have bona fide refugee status being sent back home as they have been already, to Sri Lanka and elsewhere. Our processes are also to apply the norms consistent with the UNHCR convention to which we are proud signatories. And we will not put kids behind razor wire.