House debates

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Matters of Public Importance

Asylum Seekers

3:16 pm

Photo of Ms Anna BurkeMs Anna Burke (Chisholm, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I have received a letter from the honourable member for Cook proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The adverse impact on the budget of the Government’s failure to control our borders.

I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.

More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

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

The immigration minister has his hands in the pockets of Australian taxpayers again. I note that, once again, the minister is not in the chamber today to respond to this matter of public importance. Once again he has resumed his global search for Captain Emad out there beyond this place and he has sent his deputy the Minister for Home Affairs, my friend and colleague the member for Blaxland. I look forward to his contribution, but I would really like it if the minister for immigration would stand in this place for once and actually answer for the accountability of his public policy failings, because that is the subject of this matter of public importance debate today.

This minister has run out of money again. He came into this place yesterday and asked for another $1.7 billion from Australian taxpayers when he presented an Orwellianly titled appropriation bill to fund the implementation of the Houston report. Of the $1.7 billion in that appropriation bill, $1.3 billion was for the increase in the number of arrivals this year in excess of the government's estimate back in May. That is a misrepresentation, I think, to the Australian people, as I referred to earlier today, about the purposes for which this minister is seeking more money. This minister has run out of money because he has failed on our borders like no immigration minister ever before. His record of failure is without peer when it comes to these matters.

The budget will be blown on boats alone when it comes to the surplus. If the government want to know where their surplus is, they will find it as it recedes into the night on the boats that come to this country on a more than daily basis. They will find that surplus frittered away in detention centres at Christmas Island, at Curtin near Derby, up near Weipa in North Queensland and on Nauru as well. That is where the surplus has gone. This surplus will disappear into the night simply on the issue of boat blow-outs on our border alone. This surplus will prove more elusive to the government than Captain Emad when it comes to accounting for the significant blow-outs in costs they have occurred as a result of their budget failures.

The blow-outs on our borders will blow out the budget to the tune of $2.7 billion this year. That is a 2,000 per cent increase on what the government had put in its budget annually in 2009-10—a 2,000 per cent increase. Before MYEFO the blow-out was $4.9 billion over three years; today that blow-out over four years is $6.6 billion. That is the price of border failure in financial terms from this government.

But the government are still saying they are going to achieve a $1.2 billion surplus. In this place yesterday we asked the Prime Minister, as we have asked the minister each day, to explain what the new figure in the budget is based on. How many people are they expecting to turn up this year? In the budget they said it would be 450 per month. That was based on the 30-month average, which is the standing policy of the department of immigration and the department of finance when estimating the number of arrivals they anticipate in a given year. The Prime Minister refused to answer the question. The minister has refused the opportunity to respond to this question every time he has stepped up to a microphone anywhere in this country.

But I am going to help the minister out. On the 30-month average that has been adopted by the department, the 30-month average to the end of September is 713 arrivals per month. If this budget is based on 713 arrivals per month, they are out by a country mile because we are averaging 2,075 per month every month this year. So go the boats, so goes the surplus, and the government will never deliver a surplus so long as they cannot control our border. If they cannot control the border, they cannot control the budget. We have seen the figures blow out month after month, year after year, totalling a massive $6.6 billion over four years and out into the estimates. This is a history of failure that knows no peer.

That $1.7 billion included $268 million for the building of the Nauru and Manus Island facilities. I noted earlier today that, in January of this year, when the government said, 'We're opposed to building Nauru,' they said it would cost $422,000 per bed. That is what they said in January, when they did not want to do it. Now they are doing it—guess what? It costs $126,000 per bed. The thing I have learnt about the government is that they will demonise border policies that were successful under the coalition until the day they adopt them. That is what has happened here. They have adopted the Nauru and Manus Island policies. It took them years and they had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the table. We welcome that, but they have a long, long way to go. That is why the boats keep coming—because the government refuse to restore the full measures that worked under the Howard government.

We also know that there was a bill introduced today which seeks to effectively excise the Australian mainland from the migration zone. It is the same bill that came into this place in 2006. The member for Berowra will remember that well and he will remember the debates, I am sure. In those debates, it was said that this measure was 'a stain on our national character' and that it offended decency, by our now minister for immigration; that it was shameful and xenophobic, by the former Leader of the Opposition, Mr Crean; and that it was lunacy, indecent, inhumane and gutless, by another current minister. Yet today they bring it into the House and vote for it.

You can be confident that those who sit on this side of the House will vote in a way that is consistent with the way they have voted before on these matters. On that side of the House, all you have is hypocrisy, and that hypocrisy is the stain that sits on this government when it comes to its failures on borders and the stain it has put on the budget with the blow-outs that know no peer. This is a government that continues to make it up as it goes along when it comes to our borders. This is a government that has failed in every respect to come to terms with the magnitude of the error of its decision to abolish the policies that worked.

The 'stain on our national character' today is not what the now minister for immigration said all those years ago in 2006—and, looking back on representations of ourselves six years ago, we have all weathered a bit since then. What is clear is that the real stain on the national character is the one that has been inflicted by the government in relation to our borders. The stain that marks every member that sits opposite is the stain of cost, chaos and tragedy when it comes to their failures on our borders. It is the stain of over 28,000 people turning up on over 480 vessels; the stain of those who have been lost at sea; the stain of denying protection visas to over 8,000 people in this country because of this government's policies—

Mr Danby interjecting

because they did not come on a boat.

Mr Danby interjecting

That is the stain that the member for Melbourne Ports will have to explain to his electorate.

Photo of Michael DanbyMichael Danby (Melbourne Ports, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'll explain it! You explain the stain of—

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

That is the stain that he will be accountable for. That is the hypocrisy when he votes for the bill that he has supported when it comes into the House. That is the stain he is going to have to explain. The stain you will have to explain is your failure on our borders—

Mr Danby interjecting

Photo of Ms Anna BurkeMs Anna Burke (Chisholm, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Melbourne Ports is warned!

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

That is the stain that members opposite will have to live with. And it will not wash off. It will not wash off with political spin. It will not wash off with clever press conferences. It will not wash off with smoke and mirrors. It will not wash off with Angus Houston. It will only wash off when you acknowledge the fact that you got it wrong and you need to fix that error by restoring policies that work. This minister for immigration is the biggest spending immigration minister in our history. He has his hands so far into your pockets that those pockets stretch all the way down to your bootlaces. This is a minister—

Photo of Ms Anna BurkeMs Anna Burke (Chisholm, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Cook should be very careful about the word 'you'.

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

I will, Madam Speaker. This minister for immigration has dipped his hands into the pockets of Australian taxpayers like no other. The Australian people need deep pockets to pay for this government's failures, and not just on border protection. We know of the government's cost blow-outs right across the board. But, in particular, on border protection, we know that it is the Australian taxpayer who is going to have to pay for the blow-outs on our borders.

The baby bonus has been turned into a boat bonus for people smugglers, because that is how the government are going to pay for it. How are they going to pay for the blow-outs? We saw it in the MYEFO. There is the baby bonus reduction for second and subsequent children—$505.9 million. In private health insurance, there is both the abolition of the rebate on premium increases above CPI and the removal of the rebate on Lifetime Health Cover; that is $1 billion. There is the great super swipe, coming in and swiping your super after 12 months; that is $800 million. Then there are the increases to government charges, with a levy on self-managed super—$319 million. That is what is paying for the boat blow-out. That is what is paying for this government's inability to manage our borders, because when you cannot manage your borders you cannot manage the budget. That is what we are seeing as every financial update and budget is brought into this place. The graph only goes one way, just like the number of boats: up—and up and up.

Not content with levying taxpayers and families to make them pay for the blow-outs on our borders, the government have also decided to levy those who are coming to Australia through the front door. They have decided, with a $500 million increase to visa charges, to say, 'You've got to pay,' to those who want to come to Australia the right way—that is, those coming the right way have to pay for those who are seeking to come the wrong way because the government cannot control our borders.

I am not surprised that migrant communities across Australia are outraged by this. They are sick and tired of seeing how this government has allowed the borders to be blown wide open—the unfairness and injustice of their having to work hard in the Australian community, being invested and involved in contributing to their community day after day.

They see the openness of this government on borders for those who would seek to illegally come to Australia and seek permanent residency in Australia by that method. It is just not fair, and they know it is not fair. That is why they are angry with this government for what it has done when it comes to its failures on our borders.

There is a way to end the chaos, the cost and the mess that this government has made of our borders and of our budget. The way to do that is to restore what this government has abolished. But that will not be enough, because we know that this government has so stained its credibility on our borders that it has lost the authority to be able to send the message to those who would seek to come and risk their lives in this way that this government will not be a soft touch. That is what it has proven to be. This government makes all sorts of bold claims and boasts but, when it comes to the policies, resolve and delivery on the ground and at sea, this government has simply not proved to have the mettle to do it. The costs will continue, the blow-outs will continue and the boats will continue so long as this government sits on those benches.

The only message that people smugglers will understand when it comes to stopping the boats coming to Australia is a change of government. This is what will be before the Australian people at the next election. At the next election, there is a chance to get this right again. There will be the opportunity to vote for policies that are proven, that worked and that will be backed up by the resolve of a government who believe in what they say, will do what they believe and will carry this through every single day until this madness, chaos and carnage on our borders is stopped.

3:31 pm

Photo of Jason ClareJason Clare (Blaxland, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Home Affairs ) Share this | | Hansard source

In December last year, only a few days into this job, I had the responsibility of telling the Australian people that a boat had capsized off the coast of Java and that 200 people had died. The events of that day have driven my actions in this area ever since. Both sides of politics are very critical of the people who put these people onto boats. This is why. In this case, 200 people died. Almost as many people died that day as died on the day of the Bali bombings. That is why I think it is fair to say that these people are mass murderers. They are mass murderers who make enormous profits—sometimes more than $1 million a boat—feeding off the misery of other people.

I said after the tragedy, and I have said it since, that we as a parliament need to work together to stop this from happening. I say the same thing to the parliament again today. The people of Australia are sick of the bickering, fighting, yelling and politics on this issue. This has been going on now for 11 years. It has been going on since the Tampa arrived over 11 years ago, and people have had a gutful. They want us—Labor Party and Liberal Party—to work together. While ever we do not, while ever we keep fighting, people smugglers get rich and more people die. Working together means you need to compromise. It means doing a bit of what we want and doing a bit of what the opposition want in order to do something and in order to get something done. That is what the government have done. We have been trying to broker a compromise. We have been trying to work together.

It is worth, for the purposes of this debate, going back for a moment and remembering what we have been fighting about. The government's preferred plan is not Nauru; it is Malaysia. Nauru is the opposition's plan. Because we want to stop people dying, last year we said, 'Let's do both. We'll do the government's plan of Malaysia and we'll do the opposition's plan of Nauru.' It was a compromise, but it was a compromise that was rejected by the opposition. So the government compromised again. We agreed to start with Nauru without Malaysia. Why? It is because it is the only thing that the Liberal Party would ever let through this parliament and because the alternative to that is doing nothing. If you do nothing then more people die. We have done all of this—changed our position and compromised—because people want us to work together on this wretched problem.

We want to work together but there are people in the Liberal Party who do not. There are people in the Liberal Party who want to play politics with this issue. If you want proof of that then you only have to look at the diplomatic cables that are reported in David Marr's recent article in the Quarterly Essay. If you go to page 36 of this essay, it says:

WikiLeaks told us how keen the Coalition is to exploit the boats. In late 2009, in the dying days of Malcolm Turnbull's leadership of the Opposition, a "key Liberal party strategist" popped in to the US embassy in Canberra to say how pleased the party was that refugee boats were, once again, making their way to Christmas Island. "The issue was 'fantastic," he said. "And 'the more boats that come the better." But he admitted they had yet to find a way to make the issue work in their favour: "his research indicated only a 'slight trend' towards the Coalition."

This is very telling. This is very revealing. A senior Liberal Party strategist went to the United States embassy saying that they think this issue is fantastic, the more boats the better and how disappointed they are that it has not worked well enough for them yet. This is what people talk about when they talk about the dark side of politics. It is not about people; it is about politics. It is not about boats; it is about votes. That is exactly what is wrong with this debate.

It is politics that has poisoned this debate for over a decade. Politics is the reason that the opposition has decided consistently to oppose the Malaysia plan. It has nothing to do with the fact that Malaysia has not signed the UN refugee convention. That is just a political excuse that has been made up to hide behind. If this were a real concern then the Liberal Party would have to explain why they were prepared to send people to Nauru from 2001 to 2007 when Nauru was not a signatory to the UN convention. This was not a concern then, but it is now—a made up, false excuse to hide behind because some key Liberal Party strategist tells the US embassy the more boats the better.

This debate is too important for that. While we fight, people die. That is why we have compromised. That is why we have changed our position. You change your position when the facts change, and the Liberal Party has done that too. Don't believe the argument that one side of politics has had a consistent position on this issue for over a decade. They have not. Both sides of politics have changed their views. Three years ago the Liberal Party supported the closure of Nauru and they supported the closure of Manus Island. This is what Sharman Stone, the former shadow minister for immigration, said on Lateline in April 2009:

We don't need the Pacific Solution now, that's Nauru Island and Manus Island, because we have the Christmas Island centre … So we don't need alternatives to Nauru and Manus island, we have Christmas Island.

The former shadow minister said the same thing when she appeared on the Insiders program with Barrie Cassidy in October 2009:

No we don't need the Pacific Solution with Nauru, Manus Island now because of course we built Christmas Island as an offshore detention facility.

That was Liberal Party policy three years ago. They said that we should close Nauru. So don't let anyone believe that one side of politics has been pure or consistent here. Both parties have changed their policies. But they have changed their policies because the facts have changed and because of a determination to stop people dying.

The Liberal Party policy goes something like this. We need to do three things: Nauru, temporary protection visas and turning back boats. We have the Houston report. We commissioned a report from some esteemed experts, led by Angus Houston, the former Chief of the Defence Force. He provided us with a report that gives us a course to chart our way through this wretchedly difficult policy area. There are 22 recommendations and we need to implement all of them. We need to implement every single one of them.

The report looks at the opposition's policies. It agrees to one and rejects the other two. It supports Nauru and rejects TPVs and rejects turning back boats. The report says that it is not possible to turn a boat back unless the sovereign state that you wish to turn that boat back to is agreeable to that. At page 53 of the report Angus Houston is clear. He says here:

    That is right. Indonesia would need to consent in order for us to turn a boat back. So what does Indonesia say about this? Indonesia has been very clear. The foreign minister of Indonesia, Marty Natalegawa, said in March of this year that 'simply pushing back boats to where they have come from would be a backward step'. In the same month he went further. He said that this would be impossible. He said:

    From that kind of mindset, naturally, it would be impossible and not advisable even, to simply shift the nature of the challenge from one end of the continuum to the other.

    The Indonesian Ambassador to Australia has made exactly the same point, perhaps even more strongly. He said this in March:

    … if you take that policy—

    that is, turning back boats—

    it means that you bring all the burdens to Indonesia and what about our cooperation?

    So you have there from the Indonesian foreign minister and the Indonesian Ambassador to Australia very clear statements that they do not support this policy. What Angus Houston says very clearly in this report is that, unless you have the approval of Indonesia, you cannot turn boats back. The Liberal Party have refused to accept this. They refused to accept what Angus Houston has said. Why? Why did they refuse to accept what Angus Houston said? The answer is this. This is not just any Liberal Party policy; this is the policy. In January the Leader of the Opposition made this very clear in an interview with Paul Kelly from the Australian. He said this:

    It is time for Australia to adopt turning the boats as its core policy.

    If the Leader of the Opposition accepts what Angus Houston has said or what the Indonesian foreign minister has said, then its core policy cannot happen. It cannot be done. It cannot be implemented. That explains why, when the Leader of the Opposition visited Indonesia only two weeks ago, he did not raise this issue. He did not raise the issue because he knew if he raised this issue with the Indonesian President the Indonesian President would have politely said no. When he said that word the opposition's core policy, to stop the boats, would be in tatters. That is why he stayed silent—because it facilitated him to return to Australia and to continue to tell the Australian people that he would stop the boats by turning them around, even though he knows that that cannot happen.

    It is all about politics. Surely by now we all realise that this issue is more important than that. It is more important than politics. In 11 months we have had 400 or more people die, drowning in the seas off Indonesia. We have to work together to implement the recommendations of the Houston report—all 22 of them. That means Nauru and it means Manus Island, but it also means Malaysia. As I have said in this place before, Nauru and Manus Island are a good start but Nauru, Manus Island and Malaysia is even better. If we are serious about this issue, if we are serious about stopping people dying, then we need to implement all 22. We have to implement all of the recommendations of the Houston report.

    Not only that, we have to stop talking like the conversation in this cable from the United States Embassy back to Washington that took place in 2009 between a senior Liberal Party strategist and US officials. Those opposite can contradict this if they like, but it means they are saying that the United States Embassy in Australia is not telling the truth. If this is true and this is what happened—a key Liberal Party strategist went to the US Embassy in 2009 and said 'More boats coming to Christmas Island is fantastic, and the more boats that come, the better,' and then complained that it only led to a slight trend towards the coalition—then that speaks volumes. That tells you that this is all about politics.

    This is more important than politics. People expect that politicians are going to come into this building and fight. They do not like it but they expect it. They expect that there will be brawls in this place about lots of issues. They expect that the Liberal Party is going to cut money from health and education and that the Labor Party is going to fight to stop it. They expect that the Liberal Party is going to try to cut workers compensation, like we see in New South Wales, and they expect the Labor Party to stand up for workers, to stop that, to get rid of laws like Work Choices. But, on matters of life and death, they expect better of us. They expect us to put down our swords. They expect us to work together. They do not expect to hear senior people in the Liberal Party saying, 'The more boats, the better.' They want us to stop fighting. They want us to work together. This is what they expect and, frankly, this is what the Australian people deserve.

    3:46 pm

    Photo of John AlexanderJohn Alexander (Bennelong, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

    There is a famous proverb dating back over 2,000 years to the poetry of Virgil that teaches us 'the path to hell is paved with good intentions'. This saying has stood the test of time because it is born of a deep knowledge of human nature: that well-meaning people may do things to appease a situation only to then discover that they have actually created a worse outcome.

    When we look back to more recent times, just six years ago, in the battle for the hearts and minds of the people of Australia, a young man presented as being all things to all people: supercapable, superintelligent, all the answers to all of our problems—he could even change the weather and he had a heart bigger than Texas to boot. The picture was painted that he, in good conscience, could not stand by and watch desperate people seeking asylum subjected to the conditions they were under the Howard government's border protection policies. It is of no importance whether this position was formed through a generous and kind nature or whether it was a cunning, aspiring politician wanting to appeal to the sympathetic nature of the electorate.

    Well intentioned as the changes may have been to the successful policies that had stopped desperate people risking their lives on the high seas and jumping ahead of genuine refugees, the fact is that there has been a dreadful cost—a cost in terms of lives needlessly lost, needless suffering and needless waste of our taxpayers' money. It is a matter of historical fact that, in the six-year period leading up to this policy shift, under the much demonised suite of Howard era policies, a total of 272 asylum seekers risked their lives on 16 boats. That equates to fewer than four people each month over six years.

    In contrast, in just the past week since the government released MYEFO, we have seen 17 boats arrive with 620 people—far greater than their budgeted projection of 450 people per month and contributing to ongoing budget blow-outs like the $1.2 billion listed in the MYEFO papers. There is no substitute for experience—experience hard-earned. The suite of policies that had been developed by the Howard government, and the experience, the know-how, to implement those policies, meant they worked; they achieved the goal that had been set to stop the senseless loss of life and squandering of our nation's wealth.

    Effective government results achieved efficiency, and this policy area was just one of many instances that allowed the $96 billion of debt we inherited from the previous Labor government to be paid back. Now we see history repeating itself. The Labor government has already exceeded $96 billion in debt, despite starting off with sizable savings. This particular policy failure is so important because it should be part of our human nature— whether in government, opposition or for the people of Australia—to learn from our mistakes.

    The definition of insanity is to do something repeatedly and expect a different result. Well-intentioned policies that have failed have been the hallmark of this government, and this may well be because of a lack of management experience in any number of their initiatives. As the topic of this MPI highlights, these failures have an ongoing adverse impact on our nation's budget. Just like a business, balancing a government budget is largely built on stability, on certainty in management practices and policies. On this issue of border protection, the government's flip-flopping has had a direct adverse impact on our nation's budget.

    This total lack of consistency is easily seen in the speeches six years ago on the excision of Australian territories from our migration zone—the Howard government policy that the Labor Party is now so keen to embrace. The current Leader of the House said in this place:

    The Labor Party supports border protection but does not accept that excising the whole of Australia is an effective means of border protection. You do not deal with boat arrivals by pretending that you do not have sea borders or by pretending that, if you arrive by one particular mode of arrival—boat—you do not arrive in Australia at all.

    The current Minister for Employment Participation said:

    I would like to talk about the sheer lunacy of this legislation. As of 13 April 2005, all Australians arriving by boat will be treated as though they arrived in an excised place. This will effectively excise the whole of Australia from our immigration zone. The government's approach is ridiculous. It is absolutely absurd. We cannot approach border protection by pretending that we have absolutely no borders at all. So let us be perfectly honest about this: this legislation is stupid.

    Even the current Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Mr Bowen, labelled the border protecti on policy that he now supports as ' hypocritical ' , ' illogical ' and ' a stain on our national character ' .

    And t he list goes on. The adverse impact on the budget of the g ov ernment's failure to control our borders is also clearly evident in their oth er recent policies in this area. 5 First we had the Malaysia d eal, where our Prime Minister's supreme negotiation skills led to a deal that saw us send 600 asylum seekers and $300 million to Malaysia in return for 3,000 refugees. What a bargain!

    Then, when the humanitarian intake was increased, the m inister said it w ould cost ' a round $150 million with a potential cost impact of $1.3 billion over the forward estimates. ' Yesterday , the m inister demanded an extra $268 million to build facilities at Nauru and Manus Islan d. That is just over $125,000 a bed—a most expensive bed that is. Now Nauru is reportedly applyi ng a special visa at $1 , 000 per person we send there and charging for it each and every month . Under the g overnment's plan , up to 1 , 500 asylum seekers can be housed on Nauru for up to five years. The t otal estimated impact on the budget of this small part of the g overnment's border protection policy is, therefore, $90 million.

    And t he list goes on. These experiences show that , even when back flipping to a policy that worked — a policy they should never have revoked and one that comes with a roadmap setting out how to execute it effectively and prudently —this g overnment still find a way to get it wrong. 6 It is clear to us on this side of the c hamber that failed Labor policies combined wit h inexperience and ineptitude are a lethal mix for our nation's budget. We have an e ndless list of government waste: flammable pink batts, overpriced school halls and a mining resource rent tax which has not only raised zero dollars but , in addition to having scared off investment, requires the g overnment to pay the miners for t h e privilege .

    A nd the list goes on. F inally, bereft of new ideas — or , at least , any idea of how to implement them — the g overnment's only answer now is to attack the o pposition, to blame us for their own failures. The duty of this o pposition is to highlight th e g overnment's policy failures, to expose their abject incompetence in the management of our budget and to ensure the people of our nation who suffer at the hands of this ineptitude can see through the g overnment 's spin and understand the extraordinary amount of taxpayer s' money that has been wasted to support these failed policies.

    On this side of politics sit the very people who paid back the Labor debt and delivered our nation a surplus , something the Labor Party has not been able to achieve during the lifetime of one of my c oalition colleagues. These are people with experience running businesses, experience that ca n n ot be bought. They have the mindset and they are mature enough to accept the responsibility that every Australian must demand of their caretakers.

    3:55 pm

    Photo of Michael DanbyMichael Danby (Melbourne Ports, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

    Since 31 August 2011, when the High Court rejected this government's Malaysia proposals, we have faced the prospect of a surge in boats full of irregular arrivals to this country. Although we have now adopted the only policy we could get the coalition to sign on to, the member for Cook comes in here lamenting the effects of adopting those very policies he demanded we adopt. He does that after having delayed the Malaysia proposals, which would have given us some capacity to handle this surge of irregular arrivals, for more than a year. This is the man who demanded the re-opening of Manus and Nauru, yet he is now in here complaining about the cost of it. What a farce! The member for Cook is crying crocodile tears about the effect on the surplus of irregular boat arrivals after having blocked, together with his mates in the Greens, the very legislation aimed at providing a policy solution.

    The parliament cannot forget, or let slip down the memory hole, the point made by the Minister for Home Affairs, the member for Blaxland. The member for Murray, Dr Sharman Stone, on behalf of the coalition—and I was present here in the parliament and at the meeting of the Joint Standing Committee on Migration when she did it—supported the closure of Manus and Nauru. That is why they were closed down then. She told radio station 2SM:

    The closure of Nauru and Manus Island … they had basically—what shall we say—outlived their need … I don't think we need to have Nauru and Manus Island operating, because we've got of course Christmas Island.

    I do not blame the member for Murray. Things have changed in the meantime.

    Things have changed and many of us in the government have had to face the issue of these increasing boat arrivals. The issue is not just the dollar cost, the sort of narrow accounting attitude demonstrated by the previous speaker, but the cost of human lives, the cost of humanity, the cost of people drowning at sea. Those costs weighed much more heavily with me. I stood up in this parliament and I said that, as far as Malaysia was concerned, I had been wrong. I had been wrong about not processing asylum seekers offshore—this was a way of deterring them. But now that we have adopted the very things the opposition have suggested, they are in here whingeing that we are doing it and that it costs money—after having delayed us on our Malaysia approach for more than a year and costing the taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars through that delay.

    After the tragedy at Christmas Island, in reaction to people like me who were concerned principally not with the accounting of this issue but with the people who died at sea, and in explanation of the Greens' alliance with the coalition in opposing legislation to solve the problems caused by the High Court decision of August last year, Senator Hanson-Young of the Greens said:

    Tragedies happen, accidents happen.

    This is a terrible attitude. Coalition support for the compromise put up by the government would have been great. Now we have increased our annual intake to 20,000 people, and this is a big plus for those who take a humanitarian view of these things. I hope the number of people will increase even further than that.

    If you ask me, this is the Liberal Party's last political card. We have seen a change in the opinion polls, we have seen the carbon tax bedded down, and xenophobia is their answer. The member for Cook talked about madness, carnage and the chaos on our borders. We have adopted the very policy that they wanted, and he describes it like that. Where was the Leader of the Opposition when twice in Indonesia he had the opportunity to explain to the Indonesians the policy of adopting the full suite of measures that the member for Bennelong now wants us to implement—including dragging people back to sea? I would like to see the effect of that on the Indonesians. The minister very capably outlined what the Indonesian foreign minister and the Indonesian ambassador have said about this.

    Sometimes I think members of the coalition live in a bubble created by the talkback shonks and cranks in Sydney. That is not the only world we live in—the people of Indonesia will not accept boats being dragged back into Indonesian waters. We have very good relations with Indonesia and those relations have been worked on very hard, including by previous coalition governments. Do those opposite really want to make a conflict with the Indonesians by dragging these boats back? Of course we cannot do that. It would be policy madness. Do they want conflict with Indonesia; do they want war with Indonesia?

    Those in the coalition are simply not thinking about this seriously. They laugh and they cackle because they know nothing about Indonesian attitudes on these things. They have not spoken to anyone in the Indonesian parliament. When I was in Jakarta recently I had the guts to take this issue up with the Indonesian foreign policy assembly and asked them what they would do if we started doing this kind of thing. They gave the precise answer that the Indonesian foreign minister and the Indonesian ambassador gave. Those opposite want to drag boats back into Indonesian waters without their support—but they do not have the guts to raise it with the Indonesian President when they have the opportunity.

    The Houston report made 22 recommendations. One of them was to be consistent in border classification and legislation so that the people smugglers do not try to take people beyond Christmas Island or Ashmore Reef to the shores of Australia so that they can earn their evil fees. Some of them are making $1 million or $2 million per boat. We have to make sure that their goals are not achieved, and that is why we have passed legislation. As the minister said, the Malaysia arrangement is part of the compromise that the Houston report canvassed as a possible way of dealing with these matters. I know the member for Bennelong said that this was not a way of dealing with them. Apart from the educational rights and the health rights that were negotiated by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, these people would have the ability to work in Malaysia. It is much harder to have people use their productive energy in Manus in Papua New Guinea, where work does not exist.

    These people are all brushed aside; they are of no real interest to the coalition. When Malcolm Fraser was Prime Minister we had regional processing offshore in places like Malaysia, where we could maturely deal with sometimes desperate people in conjunction with our friends and allies in Canada, the United States and Europe who might be willing to take these people. This was canvassed very extensively by the Houston report and I am hoping that the government will continue to pursue that.

    The carbon price is bedded down and now the boat people are the principal card of those opposite. The coalition is hoping this dog whistle to the Howard battlers in Queensland and New South Wales will save their political hide. That is the real motivation behind all of this. I do not dispute that there are many genuine people in the coalition who do not go along with the strategy, but it is all revealed here in the Marr article and the WikiLeaks transcript of what someone told a senior level person in the coalition—

    Mr Alexander interjecting

    The unintended consequence of WikiLeaks—yes, sometimes things said even in WikiLeaks can be true. I am certainly no fan of Mr Assange, but some of the material revealed about Saudi Arabia and its attitudes to other countries in the Middle East were absolutely accurate and I think this is absolutely accurate too. It goes to the evil heart of politics that is behind all of this. Stop all the crocodile tears about spending money on the very policies that you want; stop all the crocodile tears about these measures affecting the budget surplus. We know what lies behind this. (Time expired)

    4:05 pm

    Photo of Natasha GriggsNatasha Griggs (Solomon, Country Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

    I rise to speak on this very important matter of public importance: the adverse impact on the budget of the government's failure to control our borders. It is important because my constituents in Solomon, living in Darwin and Palmerston, are concerned about this government's inability to deal with both the Australian economy and Australia's borders. This terrible government is indeed a typical Labor government. It is addicted to spending, it has no self-control and it has failed the Australian people on so many important issues. It is a government full of hypocrisy and broken promises.

    Since the Labor government reversed the Howard government's suite of Pacific solution policies, 480 boats have arrived illegally, carrying over 28,000 people. It is estimated that over 1,000 people have died taking the dangerous journey. We know that over 8,000 people have been denied protection visas. And why is this? Because this terrible Labor government decided to get rid of what was working. It got rid of proven policies that worked. This Labor government thought that implementing only some of the Howard government policies was going to work—despite the shadow minister, the Leader of the Opposition and many others on this side warning that the full suite of policies needed to be implemented by the Labor government in order to fix border protection. Implementing just bits and pieces of the policy was not going to work. Last financial year each illegal boat arrival cost an average of $12.8 million—that is, almost $13 million a boat. This is something that the government could have prevented, but instead it rolled out the red carpet and now Australians are paying the price. Labor gave the people smugglers a product to sell.

    I am sure if you asked people in my electorate if they had an opportunity to spend just one allocation of $13 million in our electorate, they would probably want to spend the money on things like flood-proofing roads in the northern suburbs of Darwin, so that the CBD is not cut off from Royal Darwin Hospital during our monsoonal downpours. Or perhaps they would have put some of the money towards funding the NDIS.

    In today's Northern Territory News the Northern Territory Minister for Health, Dave Tollner, is quoted as saying that the Northern Territory is billions of dollars in debt and hundreds of millions in deficit. This is courtesy of the former Northern Territory Labor government, who, like their federal Labor bosses opposite, seem to have no grasp of sound economic management. They also like to spend like a drunken sailor, with little care, making unfunded promises all over the country. It is because of this typical Labor government ineptitude that the promised new Palmerston hospital is now in doubt. In the same Northern Territory News article, shock jock Pete Davies says:

    We've got the fastest growing jurisdiction in Palmerston and the rural area, we can't keep going backward ... this thing needs to be built.

    Pete Davies is 100 per cent right—the hospital does need to be built. I acknowledge that the federal Labor government pledged some funding for this much needed project, but just think how much more it could have contributed if it did not have a $1.3 billion budget blow-out courtesy of their appalling lack of responsibility in managing our borders.

    The Labor government's record on hospitals in my electorate is quite shocking. I have said many times in this place that this federal Labor government has built more detention centre beds than hospital beds in my electorate. This is not just true in my electorate; in fact, it is true in many electorates around Australia. This government is more concerned about detention beds than hospital beds. My electorate is one of the most multicultural in Australia. We are proud of our multicultural community. What we are not proud of is how this Labor government and the former Territory Labor government spend money like drunken sailors, maxing out the public credit card. No-one trusts Labor with credit cards and no-one believes that this Labor government will deliver a surplus. As we know, my colleague the member for Longman has never seen Labor deliver a surplus, not in his lifetime.

    There is no doubt this terrible Labor government has lost control of our borders and the budget and will not deliver a surplus. This Labor government has its priorities all wrong. It is using the Houston report to hide its fiscal and economic incompetence—an extra $1.3 billion in costs because of this Labor government's unprecedented and staggering border protection failure and budget blow-out.

    It amazes me and many people in my electorate why this Labor government just cannot get a handle on border protection. I am often asked, 'Why don't they return to John Howard's policies? They worked. We all know they worked.' Others comment that federal Labor would rather spend money they do not have on detention centres than face up to their responsibilities to secure our borders. I am often asked, 'Why can't federal Labor spend more money providing houses?' There is a perception that this Labor government's priorities are illegal arrivals—a problem of their own making—rather than everyday Australians. I am often reminded that in the 2010 election the former Labor member for Solomon, with the support of the Territory Labor government, promised to build 1,200 homes to be used in its affordable housing scheme. It was bad enough that this was a rehash of a 2007 election promise, but it is worse when we see that to date fewer than 130 houses have been delivered. What a terrible track record. It is typical of Labor—overpromise and underdeliver.

    The people of Solomon want to know why it is that this Labor government has delivered fewer than 130 affordable houses. Is this because of budget blow-outs? Don't people in my electorate deserve the houses Labor promised to build? Can't this government afford to follow through on its election promises to the people of Darwin and Palmerston? It is not only border protection and the budget that this Labor government has lost control of; it has lost control on building affordable houses. This government is only focused on delivering detention centre beds! Perhaps in 2013 the promise of more affordable houses will be another rehashed promise Labor will trot out in my electorate. Or will it be another broken Labor promise?

    We recently saw at the Territory election Territory Labor promising to extend the Tiger Brennan highway with federal Labor government funding of $70 million, but so ashamed are they of the Labor brand that they did not want Territorians to know it was a promise from the Gillard Labor government. I suspect, now there is a $1.3 billion budget black hole, that the promised $70 million cheque from Julia Gillard will bounce—if written at all! Will it be another broken promise to Territorians, all because this terrible Labor government has lost control of its budget, lost control of its borders and lost control of its spending and promises?

    Today is Halloween, the day people dress up in scary costumes, among other things. Normally I am not easy to scare, but this Labor government petrifies me. The absolute failure to execute one of its primary functions as a government—protecting our borders—really concerns me. It scares me because since this Labor government scrapped the Howard government policies, more than 1,000 people have died at sea, having taken the very risky and dangerous journey. Hundreds of boats have made the journey and this month alone 41 boats have arrived with 2,100 people on board. This makes an absolute mockery of the Labor government budget estimates of 450 people a month—a clear budget blow-out!

    In conclusion I would like to say that this Labor government continues to make a raft of promises around the country, many of which appear to be unfunded. How can this be? This Labor government has an unprecedented blow-out because of its failed border protection policies. These failures impact not only my electorate but also all electorates across Australia. This government stands condemned for its fiscal and economic irresponsibility. If it cannot manage its borders, how can it manage the budget? How can the Australian people trust the government to do what is right?

    4:15 pm

    Photo of Geoff LyonsGeoff Lyons (Bass, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

    It is no secret that the cost of accommodating and processing asylum seekers is high. Yesterday the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship introduced two bills to the parliament requesting the appropriation of the funds needed to implement the recommendations of the Houston report, a total of $1.67 billion in 2012-13. We all know that the only way to reduce that cost is to have fewer boats arriving in Australia, and the Australian Labor government is acting to reduce the number of asylum seekers arriving by boat.

    We are implementing every recommendation of the Report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekersthe Houston report—something that both the Liberals and the Greens have refused to do. There should be no question of the Labor government's commitment to stopping the boats and putting people smugglers out of business. The report recommended that Australia's humanitarian program be increased. The Labor government has increased Australia's humanitarian visa program from 13,750 places to 20,000 places in 2012-13. This increase is targeted at those asylum seekers who are most in need: those vulnerable people offshore, not those getting on boats. By increasing the size of our humanitarian visa program and allocating specific places for asylum seekers from Indonesia, the government has shown that there are established pathways for asylum seekers in our region to seek protection in Australia, rather than risking their lives on dangerous and perilous boat journeys at the hands of unscrupulous people smugglers.

    The panel also recommended:

    … that the Migration Act 1958 be amended so that arrival anywhere on Australia by irregular maritime means will not provide individuals with a different lawful status than those who arrive in an excised offshore place.

    We have seen legislation to this effect introduced into the House today. This amendment will mean that arrival anywhere in Australia by sea in these circumstances makes the person subject to regional processing arrangements, subject to specific exclusions.

    Through implementing the recommendations of the expert panel the Australian Labor government is taking decisive action to break the people smugglers' business model and stop people dying at sea. The Liberals' answer to boat arrivals in Australia is to turn the boats around and send them to back to Indonesia. Their leader has claimed that he will work with Indonesia as a 'candid friend' to achieve such a result. However, the Leader of the Opposition had not one but two opportunities to raise the asylum seeker issue with the President of Indonesia and failed to do so both times. How does the Leader of the Opposition expect to even implement such a policy, if he ever gets the chance, if he cannot even bring up the issue in a meeting with the very country he needs on side? The coalition's turn-back policy is both dangerous and unworkable—that is according to Navy personnel, Indonesian officials and, now, South-East Asian diplomats. The government is not prepared to recklessly endanger the lives of Navy personnel to score political points.

    The opposition should drop its dangerous turn-back policy and instead focus on a durable regional solution to the problem of people smuggling and irregular migration, as the government is doing. But that is the problem with the opposition: they are not concerned with sensible, forward-thinking solutions, because they are stuck in the past. It was the Leader of the Opposition who said, 'If you want to look at the direction for the future, you've got to look in the past.' This is not the sort of statement you would expect to hear from a visionary would-be Prime Minister. It is, however, the sort of statement you would expect to hear from someone who is solely concerned with the past and with opposition for opposition's sake.

    The opposition appear unable to see the positives of any situation—for example, the issue at hand of asylum seekers. When I think of refugees, I think of all the fantastic things they have offered to my community and my country. Often when I am asked about this issue I tell the story of one of the surgeons at the Launceston General Hospital. This particular surgeon is a specialist who has saved countless lives. The contribution that Dr Hung Nguyen has made to the medical community and the greater communities of Launceston and Tasmania cannot be measured in economic terms. Hung came to Australia on a boat from Vietnam when he was a child.

    There is a significant economic cost involved with accommodating and processing asylum seekers, but we should not forget that there is potentially much to be gained from assisting those who make the treacherous journey by boat to Australia. Australia has emerged as a multicultural nation. Its refugee communities have made a significant contribution to what it means to be Australian in terms of food, music, art, sport, culture, science, medicine, religion and society in general.

    On ABC Radio in Perth the Leader of the Opposition described asylum seekers as being un-Christian for trying 'to come in by the back door'. I do not think it is un-Christian to try and achieve a better life for your family, as the opposition leader claimed. Does this mean that he does not value what refugees can offer to our nation? It would appear so. Wasn’t Jesus Christ a refugee? Of course, as a proud Tasmanian I have come to hope that statements made by Leader of the Opposition in Perth have little meaning. But it was there that he pledged to modify the GST to a per capita system, which would effectively devastate the Tasmanian economy with the loss of at least $600 million.

    The opposition leader went on to make more misleading claims, this time about the electricity bill of a West Australian pensioner.

    He told the House that there was an $800 increase in just one bill, of which 70 per cent was due to the carbon tax. But when you examine this bill it is clear that the proportion of the increase which is due to the carbon price is a small fraction of his claimed 70 per cent. This is lazy. This is deceitful. This treats pensioners disrespectfully, as nothing but fodder for a political scare campaign. If the opposition leader really cared about pensioners, he would have established the facts about this bill rather than rushed in here to distort it for political ends.

    But the Leader of the Opposition's complete disregard for Tasmania is not the issue here; nor is his use of pensioners for political gain. The issue is the cost of managing boat arrivals and accommodating and processing asylum seekers. As I have said, managing boat arrivals is expensive. The only way to reduce these asylum seeker costs is to have fewer people arriving by boat. If the coalition was really concerned about the cost of processing and accommodating boat arrivals, it would not for so long have stood in the way of offshore processing legislation.

    As the expert panel's report pointed out, while the cost of processing arrivals is substantial, as the recommendations are implemented we will see these costs decrease. These recommendations must be implemented for many reasons, not least of which is that it is the economically responsible thing to do. But all we hear from the opposition on this matter is negativity—no feasible alternative solutions, just destructive negativity. The Australian people can see through that. They are looking to us to come up with real solutions. They are looking forward to a bright future, with an economically responsible Labor government, not an opposition offering nothing but negativity and unfunded promises.

    4:24 pm

    Photo of George ChristensenGeorge Christensen (Dawson, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

    I rise to speak on this matter of public importance: the adverse impact on the budget of the government's failure to control our borders. Probably no other issue better summarises just how bad this government is. If history has shown us anything about Labor governments, it has shown us that Labor governments are incapable of managing a budget and incapable of managing our borders. These are fundamental functions of government and fundamental failings of this government.

    But where these two failings meet it is like a massive collision of disasters; like a hurricane colliding with a snowstorm. Caught in the middle is the human toll: the toll of those who do not survive the dangerous journey that this government has encouraged, the toll of those genuine refugees in camps who cannot afford to travel through five countries and pay $10,000 to a people smuggler and the toll on Australian household budgets and services. The price Australia pays for a failed border policy—the price we pay for a government too proud to admit that it got it wrong—is not paid by the Labor party. The price for that pride and ignorance is paid by Australian families, because it is their money that is being wasted.

    According to the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook last week, those Australian families will see an additional $1.2 billion coming out of their pockets and being wasted on this issue—$1.2 billion! That is such a large sum of money that it is difficult to get your head around. I think most people in my electorate would have trouble coming to grips with the enormity of the budget blow-out. Just as an aside: these people in my electorate are the same people that the member for Melbourne Ports cast aspersions on when he talked of dog-whistling, insinuating that somehow they are racist. I say to the member: if you are going to make such assertions—if you are going to talk about dog-whistling—then just come out and say what you really mean. The voters in Queensland and New South Wales whom he just disparaged will say something at the election to him.

    North Queenslanders understand boats. Fishing is great and so is the weather, so they love their boats up in North Queensland. So does the Labor Party. They love boats too; they cannot seem to get enough of them! They have been collecting them from the people smugglers at a rate of more than one a day since June. How many this month?—41. Again, more than one a day. We have seen more than 200 illegal boats arrive this year alone—and that is just so far. I can tell you that Mackay has a fine very fine marina up in North Queensland and that a couple of hours ago it only had 240 boats in it. So by the end of the year we will probably see a Mackay marina-full of boats that have come into this country illegally.

    North Queenslanders probably have a better understanding of the scale of the number of people involved. So far this year, we have had more than 13,000 people on those 240 boats. It costs a lot of money to take care of that many people, which is why this government, earlier this year, was asking Australians to take an illegal immigrant into their own homes. According to the 2011 census there are only 10,299 homes in North Mackay, South Mackay, West Mackay and East Mackay combined. So it is easy to comprehend the number of boats and the number of people involved here.

    But every boat and every illegal entry comes at a cost. Last financial year, each illegal boat arriving in Australia cost an average of $12.8 million to the Australian taxpayer. In the first 10 months of this year, we have had more than 200 boats and more than 13,000 people. Compare that with arrivals under John Howard's successful border protection policy. In 2002 one boat arrived and one person; in 2003 one boat arrived with 53 people for the entire year; in 2004 one boat arrived with 15 people; in 2005 four boats arrived with 11 people; and in 2006 six boats arrived with 60 people. What was the impact of those border control policies on the budget? They had very little impact. What was the impact of those border control policies on genuine refugees who could then come to Australia?. It was very great.

    Mr Windsor interjecting

    I am going to pull up the member for New England, who is interjecting with little barking noises. He is another person who is insinuating that voters out there are racist, that we are somehow dog-whistling and that this is not a genuine concern. He should apologise to those people. The people in his electorate will certainly be barking at him come election day.

    The fact that a Labor government could tear down those policies and call them inhumane—policies that enabled genuine refugees who genuinely feared for their lives to find safe haven in Australia—is an absolute disgrace. Only a Labor government could destroy a perfectly good solution and create a problem for them to waste money on. Only a Labor government could find a whole new method of wasting money. Only a Labor government could be so pig headed as to then refuse to admit that it got it wrong.

    This Labor government preferred to continue throwing money into the ocean rather than admit that the Liberal-National coalition is right. The immigration minister should not only hang his head in shame but also hand in his resignation. How can the Prime Minister allow this minister to tear billion-dollar holes in a budget already in tatters and not call for his resignation? I can tell you how she can allow it: she condones it. She condones the waste, she condones people smuggling, she condones people paying $10,000 for the privilege of risking their lives. The fact that hundreds of people died in the process did not outweigh that pride.

    The Prime Minister and the immigration minister outsourced their jobs and had to get an expert panel to tell them the same thing the Australian people have been telling them for years. If you are going to outsource your job then do it properly—resign and let someone who has the guts to do the job roll up their sleeves and do it. Australians are sick of seeing a weak and divided government that is focused only on staying in power. They are sick of seeing their hard earned tax money going down the drain while they struggle to make ends meet and put up with a lack of services and infrastructure and even a lack of food on the table.

    Here is an easy way for people in my electorate to understand just how much impact this government's border control failure is having on the budget. The budget blow-out on border protection is another $1.2 billion this year. Coincidentally, $1.2 billion is exactly how much the federal government's commitment would need to be to address all of the issues on the Bruce Highway in Mackay, the Whitsundays and Bowen. They are big issues. The federal government's share, $1.2 billion, would see the Mackay ring-road started and finished. It would pay for the duplication of the Peak Downs Highway, from Sarina to Mackay, one of the most dangerous stretches of the national highway in this country.

    It would pay for the Hay Point intersection, a crucial piece of infrastructure to support the mining boom. It would pay for upgrades to the dangerous Bruce Highway intersection with Shute Harbour Road in the Whitsundays. It would pay for a solution to the flood-prone Goorganga Plains near Proserpine, which cuts off the Whitsunday coast airport from the Whitsunday coast every time there is heavy rain. Every time another boat comes through the revolving gate to our north, it is another project on the Bruce Highway that goes unfunded.

    To be fair, not all Australians want to see the entire $1.2 billion spent on the Bruce Highway, so what would it mean if we put that kind of money into something useful across the entire country? The member for Bass raised the idea, so let us talk about it. I talk with a lot of age pensioners in my electorate. They highlight to me in no uncertain terms just how hard it is to get by on the pension—and they are right. It is hard. Every dollar counts and every dollar is spent very carefully by them. What if we implemented an increase to the age pension, not a fake increase that the Labor Party gives with one hand and takes back with the carbon tax? What about a real increase? Increasing the age pension and veterans' service pensions by $20 a fortnight would cost approximately $970 million compared to the $1.2 billion that Labor is wasting because they have lost control of our borders. Even allowing for the fact that a Labor government would find a way to waste $100 million in the process, it still comes in at less than the blow-out in the border control budget.

    If those opposite want to argue about their economic credentials or the need to waste $1.2 billion on the lost control of our borders, perhaps they could explain to pensioners why the Labor Party's pride is more important than a pensioner's dinner. I will quote from a letter I received from a pensioner in my electorate. Arthur Withers lives in Townsville—in Annandale—and is acutely aware of how costly it is to live in a regional centre. He also has connected the dots between waste on border control and what pensioners are missing out on. He writes:

    You are giving money overseas and to the boat people as if it was laid on. They get things like phones, cigarettes, food, medical aid and use of computers and other things. They also have three good meals a day. Yet pensioners have to live on second grade meat and vegies and anything else we can get cheap. We who have paid taxes all our life get very little help.

    Mr Windsor interjecting

    And here is the member for New England, making barking noises at the pensioner Arthur Withers who lives in Annandale. When those opposite ask for more money to be appropriated for their failures they should consider Arthur's final comment in his letter. He says:

    If only we could buy a boat and sail back into Australia as an illegal immigrant we would be treated like Kings and Queens instead of starving to death.

    Each illegal immigrant costs Australian taxpayers an average of $170,000 each year. This government has blown it this year—up to $1.2 billion in a cost to our budget. We could be using that money for better things if the government would only swallow its pride and adopt the full suite of measures. Not just Nauru; bring back TPVs, turning around the boats where appropriate and negotiating with Indonesia and doing it with some gusto. Instead the government is weak and insipid. The problem continues and the money continues to be wasted. Bring on an election to fix this problem.

    Debate adjourned.