House debates

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Private Members’ Business

Asylum Seekers

9:01 am

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to move a motion to suspend so much of standing and sessional orders as would prevent the member for Cook from having notice No. 21, private members’ business standing in the name of the member for Mayo, called on immediately and debated.

Leave not granted.

I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Cook from moving that standing orders be suspended to enable the Member for Mayo to move the motion standing in his name, viz.—That this House:

the announcement on 18 October 2010 by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship about the commissioning of a detention facility at Inverbrackie in South Australia costing $9.7 million to accommodate 400 people, consisting of family groups who are undergoing refugee status assessment;
that the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship failed to consult with the State Government of SA, the Adelaide Hills Council and the local Woodside community on the commissioning of this facility; and
that the Prime Minister visited the Adelaide Hills on Sunday 17 October 2010 immediately prior to the announcement and made no mention of the plan to commission the detention facility at Inverbrackie;
provides a reference to the Joint Standing Committee on Migration to undertake the following inquiry:
that the Joint Standing Committee on Migration inquire into the commissioning of a detention facility for 400 people comprising family groups at Inverbrackie, including:
the suitability of the site for locating a detention facility for the purpose of accommodating family groups in comparison with alternative options available to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship;
the impact of the operation of the facility on the local community, including on health, education, recreation, transport, police and other community services;
the impact on defence operations, personnel and family groups based at the Inverbrackie facility;
the impact of the facility on the local economy and small business;
the level of community support for the commissioning of the facility;
the level of cost and extent of services and facilities provided to clients at the detention facility; and
potential risks that need to be managed for the successful operation of the facility;
that the Joint Standing Committee on Migration undertake public hearings in Woodside, SA and Canberra, ACT to facilitate the participation of community members, local service providers, council officers and state and federal departmental officials to assist the Committee with its inquiry; and
that the Joint Standing Committee on Migration report back no later than the first sitting week of Parliament in 2011; and
calls on the Government to postpone commissioning the detention facility for 400 people including family groups at Inverbrackie, until such time as the Committee has reported and the Government has provided a response to that report to the Parliament.

This motion to suspend standing orders is a matter of urgency, to be debated today. This government has failed to consult and it has now asked to simply go ahead without the opportunity for this motion to be considered in the parliament. There is an opportunity today for the standing orders to be suspended to enable the member for Mayo to move this motion, which calls for a parliamentary committee to actually provide the consultation that this government has denied the good people of Woodside. This is a government that decided, without any consultation on this matter with the local community, to proceed with this facility. The parliament has the opportunity today to step up where this government has failed to do so. Where this government has failed to consult, this parliament has an opportunity, through its committee, to consult the people of Woodside, to hear their questions and to seek answers to their questions. This is an urgent motion. It requires consideration today. The opportunity to consider this motion again will not present itself for some weeks, at which time the government will have already proceeded and the horse will have already bolted.

Today we have an opportunity for this parliament to live up to all the huff, all the bluff and all the bluster that has been out there about some new paradigm. If there is a new paradigm operating in this parliament then this parliament would be able, through its committee, to talk to constituents about decisions of this government. And that is the heart of this motion. This motion, to be moved by the member for Mayo to seek consultation with his community, is all about ensuring that this parliament operates effectively to ensure that the views and concerns of his constituents are well known. It is true that this government failed to consult. It has been running around for weeks, if not months, looking at all sorts of potential facilities and myriad options, even undertaking works and spending taxpayers’ money on these contingency options and leaving people out there in the community completely in the dark. Even in this place yesterday, and the day before, the Prime Minister was unable to rule out more broadly things that this government may ultimately do when it comes to opening further detention facilities.

The government led people to believe before the election that there was no need to expand onshore detention facilities. They allowed that perception to be there, and fostered in the community, so that they could go ahead with their business on the other side of the election, if elected, and do what they always knew they would have to do—that is, expand their onshore detention network, because they have no answers when it comes to offshore detention and they have absolutely no answers when it comes to stopping the unprecedented, record level of arrivals of people in this country illegally by boat under the soft policies of the government, which they rolled back. They chose to roll these policies back; they chose to soften the policies—and as a result we have had 8½ thousand people turn up, on their watch, because of their soft policies.

Their detention network is in a rolling crisis. The only answer the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship has is to open more beds. The only answer the Prime Minister has is a never-never solution on East Timor, which has been absolutely rejected by the former Prime Minister. He won’t touch it with a 50-foot pole as Minister for Foreign Affairs, and it has been hand-passed to the new Minister for Immigration and Citizenship to carry the can for what is an absolutely dud policy.

This a government where, when it comes to consultation on this matter, the minister has described the use of a parliamentary committee to talk to the people of Woodside, as ‘a political organisation’. Such is the disrespect for the committees of this parliament that the mere suggestion that a committee of parliament might go and talk to the people of Woodside is some sort of political act. I remind the minister that there are five members of the government on that committee, there is one member of the Greens on that committee and there are only four members of the opposition. This is a committee controlled by the government, and we are asking this parliament today to go and ask that committee to talk to the people of Woodside, because this minister will not.

This minister will not go and front the people of Woodside. He is happy to sit in an ivory tower—that classic scenario—and make decisions about what is going to happen in people’s communities and not front up. He is happy to send officials out there, as human shields for his own decisions, but he will not go down there and talk to them himself. He is happy to sit in his ivory tower, as so many of the ministers are happy to do. Whether it is in the Murray-Darling Basin, or down in Inverbrackie in Woodside, this is a government that will not consult, will not face the music for its own decisions and is happy to use public officials, in good-old New South Wales Labor style—sending out the public servants, corporate affairs people and media spin doctors—to run its line and not face the consequences of its own decisions. This is a minister who has refused to face the community, and this parliament should take the opportunity to step up where this government has so cowardly failed to do so.

This is a government whose members at the most senior levels—senior cabinet ministers—have described the legitimate questions and concerns of the Woodside community as ‘hysterical’. Now, I don’t know what happened to the rhetoric before the election, where the Prime Minister said, ‘Oh, we understand the concerns of Australians about boat arrivals to Australia; we understand there’s anxiety’. No, they do not. We knew they never did. And on the other side of the election they are happy to tell Australians who are concerned about this issue that they are ‘hysterical’. To use the Minister for Trade’s own words: they are ‘hysterical’.

So the people of Australia should know that this government consider the communities’ concerns about this matter so inconsequential that they are ‘hysterical’. They do not warrant consultation before facilities are imposed on communities without the opportunity for consultation. They do not warrant, according to this government, the opportunity for a parliamentary committee, a committee of this parliament comprising members from all quarters of this House and the other chamber, to go and talk to them when the government have failed to do so. They do not think that is appropriate. They do not think consultation is appropriate. The government have no policy when it comes to stopping the unprecedented rate of illegal boat arrivals to Australia. There are a record number of boats and people who have arrived this year. The government hold all the records when it comes to this: there are a record number of people in detention. They have no policy and they have no courage of their convictions when it comes to facing the community, so this parliament should do so on their behalf.

Photo of Harry JenkinsHarry Jenkins (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! Is the motion seconded?

9:11 am

Photo of Jamie BriggsJamie Briggs (Mayo, Liberal Party, Chairman of the Scrutiny of Government Waste Committee) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion the member for Cook has moved to suspend standing orders to allow me to move the motion on the Notice Paper in relation to the decision by the government to establish a detention facility in Inverbrackie without consultation. The member for Cook is doing a fantastic job and has just done a fantastic job in holding this government to account on this failure to manage Australia’s borders.

Last Monday my community was ambushed by a government which has lost control of Australia’s borders—so much so that the Prime Minister was actually in the Adelaide Hills the day before the announcement and she failed absolutely to mention a word of the planned facility, which was just 17 kilometres down the road from where she was on the Sunday. Her defence is that she could not ask the community what they thought because she was following cabinet convention. Well, that has not stopped her in the past, it must be said: this is a Prime Minister who sent a staffer to a National Security Committee meeting in the past, as referred to in the Australian during the election. This is a Prime Minister who does not care too much about cabinet convention when it suits. The Prime Minister has used this as an excuse for her lack of courage to face my community last Sunday and tell them what her plan was. She is either incompetent or she lacked the courage to do so.

This motion seeks to do what the government should have done in the first place. In fact, it was actually the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship who promised he would do this in that first place. This minister, on Perth radio on 17 December, said, ‘I would talk to, and we would talk to, the relevant shire there and the authorities about what we are contemplating there and, if we were to do so, get their feedback.’ Well, he did not speak to the Adelaide Hills Council. He called them an hour before the decision was made—in fact, an official called an hour before the decision was made. The Labor Premier, Mike Rann, got a call an hour before the decision was made. He used parliament in South Australia yesterday to say how angry he was, how disappointed he was, that this minister and this Prime Minister have failed to consult with the South Australian government on this decision.

But the minister went further on Perth radio. He said: ‘But I’d be more than happy to talk to local communities.’ What a complete and utter fib! You have not been anywhere near the Adelaide Hills, Minister. You were not there last Thursday night.

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

We were sitting!

Photo of Jamie BriggsJamie Briggs (Mayo, Liberal Party, Chairman of the Scrutiny of Government Waste Committee) Share this | | Hansard source

Well, I got there! I got to the meeting last Thursday night. Where was the minister? He failed to attend, he failed to consult and he said, ‘The cabinet has decided to make this decision; bad luck to the community.’ Now, when we try to move for a parliamentary committee, the minister says, ‘That’s nothing but a political organisation.’ What about the climate change committee? What about the Murray-Darling Basin committee? Are they political organisations as well, Minister? You have lost control of this issue, Minister, and you should front up to the Adelaide Hills. You should front up and ask the people’s views on what they think of your decision without having consulted them.

This motion should be supported, because my community deserve to have their say. Let the sunshine flow in. Let the committee raise these issues. If this could happen to my community, it could happen to any community represented in this place. We had the member for Hughes yesterday asking very relevant questions of the Prime Minister, and all he got was shrill abuse and no ruling out of the facility at Holsworthy. What about the member for McEwen? What will happen when Puckapunyal is used as one of these facilities? What will the member for McEwen say to his community? If the government can get away with this today, they can get away with it next week and the week after.

This motion should be debated because my community deserve the right to have their voices heard. They deserve the right to have their concerns raised in this place. Premier Mike Rann raised their concerns in the South Australian parliament yesterday; why can’t my community have them raised in the Australian parliament? This government have lost control of Australia’s borders. They are all at sea. This minister is all at sea. This decision was known last Sunday. The community should have been told last Sunday by the Prime Minister. They should have had had the opportunity to raise these issues. It was a cowardly thing to do to roll up and use the Adelaide Hills as a photo opportunity but to fail to consult.

Where are the South Australian members of this place today? The Minister for Mental Health and Ageing was here, but he has left because he is ashamed of the way the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship is treating South Australia. How will the member for Hindmarsh explain to his community the way that this community is being treated? How will he explain to members of the community in Hindmarsh how South Australia is being treated by this government?

This parliamentary committee is not a political organisation. Parliamentary committees are not political organisations. They allow a voice for the community. This motion should be supported to give my community a voice. (Time expired)

9:15 am

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak against the suspension of standing orders. This is a stunt from an opposition that is bereft of ideas and determined to distract attention from their own internal problems. We have seen it writ large today with Peter Costello’s op-ed in the SMH and the Age, taking apart the former Prime Minister, John Howard, on his honesty. But the one thing that Peter Costello and John Howard agree on is that this mob over here are not up to it. This mob over here are not up to the legacy that they left.

This motion today is about taking up the parliament’s time with a distraction. This parliament, all of us—Labor, coalition and Independent members—sat down and signed up to a parliamentary reform process that gives record time for private members to raise issues of concern to them in this parliament. The Standing Committee on Selection met last night to determine what would be debated in private members’ business. But those opposite did not have this on the agenda and did not want this on the agenda. They have had a range of issues flip-flopping around. They have had private members’ business motions and a private member’s bill moved by the member for Wentworth. But that has been superseded because, since they moved the private member’s bill on broadband last week, they have changed their policy again. So by the time we get to vote on it the policy will be redundant.

This is an inconsistent mob with simply nothing to say about issues of substance. They talk about the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship—he sat here day after day desperate for a question and could not get one from those opposite. They come in here and pretend that this is an issue of urgency. They pretend that they are for consultation. Let us have a look at the previous mainland sites that were opened when they were in office. Curtin opened in September 1999. Woomera opened in November 1999. The Woomera residential housing project was opened in August 2001. Baxter opened in September 2002. The Port Augusta residential housing project was opened in November 2003. For all of these projects did they come in here and say, ‘Let’s have a process of public consultation and public meetings’? No, not at all. Hypocrisy, thy name is the Liberal Party when it comes to these issues.

The fact is that, in moving this suspension, those opposite are once again walking away from an understanding of the running of a good parliament. On the running of the parliament, we have established a system in which I think most people who are objective commentators recognise that there has been substantial improvement. We have moved away from the sort of thing where you come in here and say, ‘Oh, it’s Wednesday; we’ll move a suspension at 9 am.’ For newer members, this is what they used to do towards the end of the last term. They would come in here on Wednesdays at nine o’clock and say, ‘What will we do to take up some of the parliament’s time?’ Previously, perhaps an argument could be put for it. Now it cannot, because now there is every opportunity to raise issues. Indeed, on Monday this week from 10 am right through to 10 pm in this House and in the Main Committee, with the exception of question time, essentially a majority of that time was taken up with private members’ business. This mob over here say that people should be leaving the parliament, not fulfilling their duties in the parliament, to go to meetings outside of the parliament, and yet they will not grant anyone a pair. We had the Business Council of Australia dinner last night with no-one there for the first time. Normally you would have representatives of the government and the opposition there, but those opposite have this attitude.

Photo of Michael KeenanMichael Keenan (Stirling, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Justice, Customs and Border Protection) Share this | | Hansard source

You have got to ask for it.

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

Indeed, we have had a debate this week about people attending the late Ken Wriedt’s funeral and being given a pair by those opposite. So let us not get into detail, Michael Keenan, because let me tell you that those on this side will run through the list of the outrageous actions by those opposite.

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Education, Apprenticeships and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I am aware that a lot of latitude is given in these debates about suspension of standing orders, but this is a suspension about whether a motion should be brought on for debate about immigration. It is not a debate about all the things that the Leader of the House is talking about.

Photo of Harry JenkinsHarry Jenkins (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. It is a debate about the suspension of standing orders. Reasons for not suspending or suspending are applicable to the debate. It is not actually open to debate the question proposed to be discussed.

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

I am actually speaking to the motion that has been moved, unlike the two speakers on the other side, who spoke about the substance of the motion. This is about the functioning of this parliament and whether we should have a parliament in which it is agreed in terms of the timetable and the discussions that take place or whether we will move back to the old paradigm, the pre-hug paradigm, and we will come in at 9 am on Wednesdays and Thursdays and just think, ‘Oh well, it is your turn, shadow minister for immigration, to move the suspension this week.’

I think we should move beyond that. Because of the way we have framed the parliamentary sittings, I think there is no need for us to do that. We could do the same thing. We could come in here and have more of a chance of getting some success in moving a suspension of standing orders to debate the fact that the Leader of the Opposition refused to back in the shadow Treasurer on the doors this morning when asked about banks. We could come in and ask about that. We could have quite an interesting dialogue about the economic illiteracy of those who have adopted economic Hansonism over there and we could have a debate. We could have the Leader of the Opposition dissociating himself from the shadow Treasurer and then we could allow the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to defend her position—

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Speaker, on a point of order: the motion was dealing with the suspension of standing orders, not a commentary on the opposition.

Photo of Harry JenkinsHarry Jenkins (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The member for Cook will be very careful in coming to the dispatch box to make debating points when he has already contributed to the debate. The Leader of the House has the call.

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

We allowed him to speak but they do not want to hear us. We could do that. We could have the shadow Treasurer and the alternative shadow Treasurer commenting on what the shadow Treasurer had to say. Perhaps the shadow Treasurer is in here to make a comment about that. We could move a suspension to talk about whether it is the view of the House that failure in 2007 was all Howard’s doing. We could talk about the contribution of Peter Costello to the House. But we have not done that, because we believe in the agenda that has been determined by this parliament, the framework of parliamentary reform that allows for more than a doubling of private members’ business time. That is why this suspension should not be supported. We should support the good, orderly functioning of this parliament, as has been agreed by the government, by the opposition and by the Independent members.

Photo of Harry JenkinsHarry Jenkins (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The time allowed by standing order 1 for debate on the motion having expired, the question is that the motion moved by the member for Cook for the suspension of standing and sessional orders be agreed to.

Question put.