Wednesday, 9 November 2016
Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016; Second Reading
I speak in relation to the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016 to say that Labor opposes this particular bill. According to the UNHCR the number of displaced persons fleeing from war, conflict or persecution is the highest since World War II, with Syria the epicentre of this. There are, according to latest figures, about 65 million persons around the globe who are displaced. Labor believes that Australia must do more, and we should participate in world affairs and do our bit in relation to this global humanitarian crisis. We believe in a compassionate approach in relation to asylum seekers which enables refugees to live and integrate in this country, which was built on migration. Labor strongly believes in a multicultural society, and Australia has been blessed and economically developed by the multicultural community we have become over the years. We have always committed ourselves to participating in leadership of the global work that is done in South-East Asia and the Pacific, and Labor believes we as a country should do more in the leadership of South-East Asia and the Pacific to look at regional humanitarian frameworks to enhance the situation and address the asylum seeker challenge that we face.
Labor took to the last election a commitment that we would increase our annual humanitarian intake. We urge the government to do more. We recognise that the government has made a commitment to increase the humanitarian intake, but we think we can do more than that. We have committed ourselves to a strong and independent voice within government to advocate for children, and we urge the government to adopt Labor's policies in relation to an independent children's advocate with resources and statutory powers to pursue the best interests of children, including the power to bring court proceedings on a child's behalf. We urge the government to legislate for mandatory reporting of child abuse in all offshore and onshore immigration detention facilities.
Labor is at one with the government to protect our borders and to shut down people-smuggling operations. These are criminal cartels, and we should not give them any succour or any support. Labor took a position in the 2013 election that no asylum seeker who came to Australia by boat would ever be resettled in Australia. The government is deliberately misrepresenting Labor's statement for base political purposes. The legislation before the chamber goes well beyond what the government has said. It prevents a person who comes by boat from ever coming to Australia under any circumstances. The legislation specifically says that an application for a visa is not a valid application. It could lead to absurd outcomes in relation to work, business, tourism, or even families.
Who is to say that the member for Dickson, the current Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, is the guardian in relation to this? The powers under this legislation are personal to him and non-compellable. He can exercise many of these powers by legislative instrument. Let's be clear: this is an overreach by the government, by a Prime Minister desperate to appease the right wing of his political party, to secure his leadership and maintain it, and to appease One Nation. It is more about votes and preferences in WA and Queensland in forthcoming state elections. The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection has been incompetent in relation to securing viable third-party or third-country resettlement arrangements. This government has been in power for three years, yet the people languish on Manus and Nauru with no prospect, at this point in time, of their being resettled.
Labor's policy has always been to keep our borders secure. We want to make sure we close down the route between Java and Christmas Island, and keep it closed down. We want to make sure that people-smugglers are out of business, and we will work with third countries as a priority in relation to these issues. But this is legislation out of desperation—desperation in terms of the leadership of the Prime Minister. It seems ridiculous. It is unnecessary legislation and it is nonsensical.
The government has come up with many excuses for this, but I want to get past their bellicosity—their bullying, their posturing, their posing—and the diatribe and the demagoguery we have heard from the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. I want to have a look at what the bill actually says, because it is critical for those who might be listening. The bill amends the Migration Act and regulations to make any and all applications for a visa invalid where the applicant is part of a regional processing cohort. A designated regional processing cohort is defined as persons who are unauthorised maritime arrivals and after 19 July 2013 are taken to a regional processing country and are at least 18 years of age on the only occasion after 19 July 2013 when they were taken to the regional processing country or indeed transitory persons in respect of the same definition.
The definition of a transitory person is so broad—the government has attempted to scoop up as many people as possible. According to the independent departmental briefing that the opposition has received, about 3,100 persons are affected. This includes asylum seekers who are currently in regional processing centres on Manus and Nauru; those living in onshore detention in Australia in places such as MITA, Villawood and Maribyrnong; those living in community detention in Australia on bridging visas or other temporary arrangements; those persons who voluntarily return to their country of origin from Manus and Nauru; and the few genuine refugees who have accepted a resettlement option, including into Cambodia or Papua New Guinea.
By legislating that visa applications by these people are invalid, the bill implements a lifetime ban on any visa at any time for these people, including for travel to visit family, for tourism or for business or study in Australia. The immigration and border protection minister would have us believe that it is okay to permanently ban these people because he can use ministerial discretion to let a person into Australia. It is true that the bill gives the minister broad discretion to make a determination to waive these provisions in the public interest for an individual or a class of persons specified in a legislative instrument. But hidden in the legislation is a caveat that the immigration minister does not have a duty to consider whether to exercise his discretion in given circumstances.
What does this mean for asylum seekers? Put simply, the effect of this legislation is to shift exclusive control over access to Australia by former asylum seekers to the immigration minister—the minister who really has no compellable obligation in certain circumstances to adhere to their request. This cohort of people will be entirely dependent on the good grace and discretion of the member for Dickson to let a person into the country. This is the same individual who earlier described refugees as illiterate and innumerate people who would take Australian jobs or languish on the dole and use free health services within Medicare.
This is not good public policy. The bill means that the minister would need to intervene and apply ministerial discretion in circumstances in which former asylum seekers—genuine refugees in third countries—would be banned from visiting for tourism, for business or even to visit family. Just think about this situation. The minister would have to intervene to allow a doctor to visit Australia to perform surgery or attend a medical conference, or someone who then became a politician in that third country to undertake a political exchange or a study tour or visit Australian sister cities, or elite athletes from competing in upcoming sporting events like the Commonwealth Games, or to affect future Australian Olympics bids where there was a recognised refugee Olympics team, or former refugees from visiting family members in Australia or visiting tourist sites in Australia, such as the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru and other holiday spots on a tourist visa, or business owners or employees from visiting Australia to discuss the expansion of companies, businesses or franchises into the Australian market. Australians would be surprised if they were to discover that the maintenance of family relationships in this country is dependent on the member for Dickson. I do not know about you, but I do not think Australians trust the member for Dickson to make independent, fair and good decisions in the national interest on such applications.
We need an orderly migration process. We will not achieve this by giving the minister the discretion to make it up as he goes along. And the minister has form in this space. He is not known for being across the detail of his portfolio, and last week only added fuel to the fire. We took this bill seriously. We considered the legislation in detail. We took it to shadow cabinet, to the relevant caucus committee, and our caucus voted unanimously to oppose this bill. Can the Turnbull government say the same? At times in the last week it became evident that the senior ministers in the Turnbull government do not understand the legislation. And it is no surprise, because the immigration and border protection minister himself struggled to get his own story straight.
The Turnbull government has been incapable of articulating a consistent policy rationale for this legislation. The story seemed to change as members of the government added their own views. When they were asked whether refugees living in the Australian community on bridging visas would be affected by a lifetime ban on visiting Australia, in the space of 24 hours the immigration minister's office said yes, the foreign minister's said no, and the Minister for Health and Aged Care said no and then 'I don't know'. Where has the foreign minister been in all this? She is responsible for Australia's relationships with our international partners. The foreign minister has skin in the game, too, and she has been missing in action in this space. Neither the immigration minister nor the foreign minister has been able to secure durable third-country resettlement options for those persons on Manus and Nauru. They simply cannot get the job done.
But I digress. It is worth outlining what other members of the government have said, and I will start with the Assistant Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, a former assistant minister for multicultural affairs. I presumed that he would be across the bill. On Monday he waded into the debate, and I would like to thank him for that, because the assistant minister, who was described as 'a strong supporter of immigration', is reported in The Age as saying:
… the changes would merely ‘formalise’ existing protocols making it difficult for asylum seekers to obtain visas. Under the status quo, former asylum seekers considered to be at risk of breaching their visa conditions and staying in Australia were already likely to be rejected.
This is just gibberish, as far as I can see. It just confirms that the government has the powers and can do what the legislation is purporting to do anyway. It really is extraordinary that he could not get it straight either. Senior members of the government know that it is already difficult for asylum seekers to obtain a visa to enter Australia, and we already have processes in place to reject applications where the government has well-founded concerns.
But the assistant minister was not the only one to speak out. The immigration minister's own comments show that he is making it up as he goes along. Last Sunday week, the Prime Minister and the immigration minister stood together and claimed that this legislation is important to send a strong message to people smugglers to stop the boats. That would be fine, and maybe the Australian public would accept it, if, up until last Sunday, the government had not argued until they were blue in the face and bragged about the fact that the Turnbull government had already sent strong messages to people smugglers and they had already bragged that they had stopped the boats for over 830 days. The message from the government has changed, but the headlines on the minister's website have not: '800 days without an illegal boat arrival'; 'The coalition has stopped the boats'; 'Two years of not having illegal arrivals, because we've stopped the boats.'
Then there were the comments on 27 July from Rear Admiral Peter Laver, Commander Maritime Border Command, who, in a joint press conference, said:
Working unilaterally and with our partner countries in the region, we have been able to significantly disrupt and degrade people smuggling networks throughout our region and ensure that people don't undertake perilous voyages in dangerous conditions by boat to attempt to come to Australia. In the event that people attempt this voyage, we're absolutely certain that we have the assets in place to disrupt and interdict those ventures and take them back to the countries from whence they departed.
The boats have stopped, and the bipartisan policy that combines offshore processing and boat turnbacks, when safe to do so, works. We took amendments to our national platform in 2015 and adopted turnbacks when safe to do so. So, if this policy works, why does Australia need the legislation before the chamber today? The clear answer is that we do not.
The next excuse provided by the minister was that the legislation was needed to send a message to those people currently on Manus or Nauru who are waiting for government policy to change. The immigration minister said in his joint press conference with the Prime Minister on 30 October:
It is very difficult when people smugglers are messaging to them, where we have advocates here messaging them saying 'Don't accept packages, eventually you will come to Australia.'
The minister forgets that many of these people currently have nowhere to go. The minister has failed to secure resettlement arrangements and he has failed the people on Manus and Nauru for three years—he and his predecessor, the now Treasurer.
Next, the minister really outdid himself. He claimed that Australia needed to impose a lifetime ban on asylum seekers because we were going to be overrun with sham marriage. He said on 30 October:
There is intelligence that I've seen about people wanting to travel to Manus Island to marry some of the people from the regional processing centre, to try and create a process where they might come here on a spouse visa. That is not acceptable.
It is a claim he repeated all week, seemingly forgetting that Australia already has in place a robust program to access the genuine nature of relationships as part of the partner visa process. If the department has doubts about the genuine nature of a relationship, they can, should and do reject such visa applications. The government also has a robust compliance program in place to prevent, catch and remove people who overstay visas, and there has been no suggestion that this program is not equipped to manage future risks associated with issuing short-term visas to members of this cohort.
By 3 November, the minister's sham marriage claims were in tatters, as migration experts contradicted the claims. Kerry Murphy, a credited migration specialist, described the idea that new legislation was needed to prevent such relationships as 'frankly ludicrous'. He told TheGuardian:
You're looking at a process the department deals with very regularly. This is nothing new. Why not let the application go through the existing law that's already there? The legislation is there and being used, probably on a daily basis. There's no reason or logic why the law needs to be changed for such a small group of people.
Natasha Blucher, a detention rights advocate for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, said:
If the department is worried it means they don't have confidence in their own internal processes. As far as I am aware there's a high threshold of evidence to show a relationship is not a sham relationship.
She went on to say that she was unaware of anyone in the offshore centres seeking out a 'sham relationship' in the hope of obtaining an Australian visa.
From Labor's point of view, the final nail in the coffin came on Monday when I was briefed by the department. Remember: we only got the bill last Friday and there was no explanatory memorandum. I finally got a briefing over a week later, on the Monday, from the department. Independent department officials confirmed that there have been no partner visa applications from asylum seekers who are currently in Manus and Nauru and who are in a relationship with someone living in Australia. They went further and said that there was a rumour that 'maybe' one application had been received from someone who had been on Manus or Nauru in the past, was now in another country and had made an application for a partner visa—'maybe'; it might occur; it might happen; it might be there. But we cannot legislate against rumours and speculation. The minister has been unwilling and unable to produce any credible evidence that this measure is needed. Its cause to wonder: do we need to legislate against a real threat of sham marriages or if the problem is only in the head of the member for Dickson?
Finally, when the minister knew he was losing public confidence, he claimed this legislation was needed to pave the way for a third-country resettlement option with another country.
Let me be clear, we need to get the people off Manus and Nauru. These people are being held in indefinite detention for too long. But the government have provided no credible evidence that there are any agreements in place with third countries for resettlement or that they have any in the works. They have not told the opposition and nor have they told the Australian public. Even if there were, there is no evidence that this legislation is required to secure that resettlement to a third country or countries. In briefings on Monday, the department representatives confirmed that no country had asked Australia to adopt this legislation to facilitate a regional resettlement agreement. No-one has asked us to do so. So why is the government taking this drastic step with this legislation today?
This legislation is a distraction. It is a distraction from the government's abject failure to secure third-party resettlement arrangements for asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru, and that is where their priorities should be. The only possible deal on the table was with New Zealand, and the government have not taken that up. Instead, they choose to let these people languish. The immigration minister on 31 October said:
Settlement in a country like New Zealand would be used by the people smugglers as a marketing opportunity.
I say to the minister: really? Remember this is the same minister who justified conditions on Manus and Nauru, comparing them to refugee camps in Jordan, saying the conditions were better. One would hope so. They are Australian government funded facilities and we are spending millions of dollars in this process. We have an obligation to treat people fairly and to make sure people are safe there.
I note the government failed to support Labor's Senate inquiry in relation to the Nauru files and the allegations of abuse, mental health and harm issues on Manus and Nauru. The government have been abject in their failure in terms of transparency and accountability, and voted against that Senate inquiry, which will now report by March next year.
When asked about this particular bill—a New Zealand option, the idea that people from Manus and Nauru would be resettled there—the conservative New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said: 'We have no intention of having separate classes of New Zealand citizens.' And then he ruled out an agreement for refugees granted New Zealand citizenship to be unable to travel to Australia. So John Key, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, has said he does not want second-class New Zealand citizens, and that is something which, I imagine, other countries would also believe.
It is hard to think that this legislation would help facilitate people being resettled. It is more likely to be a hindrance to being resettled, because other countries would have people coming to them, who, if they became permanent residents or indeed citizens, would be second-class citizens in terms of travel to Australia. The measure for third-party resettlement that the government is trying to bring in has been destroyed—in terms of its credibility as a necessity by the comments made by the New Zealand conservative Prime Minister.
There are concerns that have been raised in relation to this particular legislation. We are a signatory to the refugee convention and the provisions there. There are concerns that have been raised in terms of the legality of this particular measure. I have asked the government for a copy of any legal advice that confirms the bill is in keeping with our international and domestic obligations. The government has declined to provide that legal advice and preferred to keep it secret from the opposition and the public.
It is little wonder people are concerned about this—people such as Ben Saul from the Challis Chair of International Law at the University of Sydney. He publicly raised concerns about the bill breaching Australia's international obligations. He argues that it breaches article 31 of the refugee convention as well as Australia's family reunion obligations under articles 17 and 23 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
What about families? When asked about how this bill could tear apart families and put strain on relationships, the immigration minister in a press conference on 2 November said those families would have to relocate to a third country. He said:
… we may be able to reunite families, for example, to take up third-country settlement options, if that's an arrangement that's appropriate …
Honestly, this minister is clueless on this issue.
If the government wants to talk to the opposition, we are happy to work with the government to provide bipartisan support in getting people off Manus and Nauru and to make sure that people living on Manus and Nauru are treated with dignity and respect. We want to make sure that our borders are secure but also that people who are in Australian government funded facilities are looked after.
The idea that somehow, in 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 years time, someone assessed as a refugee who has become a citizen of another country would be prevented from coming here on a short-term visa, for work or for business opportunities—opportunities which might enhance Australia's economic or tourism development, bringing in more money to Australia—or indeed to visit their family, is ridiculous and absurd. It is not Labor's policy. There is no credible evidence why this legislation is needed in the circumstances.
The legislation has no basis in good public policy and it will not achieve the outcomes the government suggests, in terms of preventing sham marriages. If the government thinks there is a problem with sham marriages, come and talk to us and we will look at further legislative changes which might enhance the government's ability to prevent sham marriages. But it has not done that at all.
The perverse outcomes I have outlined are simply unacceptable. If there is a problem, the government should talk to the opposition about this, not turn to dog-whistling and demagoguery. That is not the answer. They did not speak to us before they had that press conference last Sunday week about this. The minister did not talk to me about it. The Prime Minister did not talk to the Leader of the Opposition about it.
It seems this government is committed to reaching out to the far Right. They are spooked by Pauline Hanson and One Nation, and the Prime Minister is insecure about his leadership—it is quite clear. All they want to do is talk about these types of things. We saw it on display yesterday. But this is a distraction from their complete failure to secure third-country resettlement arrangements and get these people off Manus and Nauru. One Nation has made a comeback in the Senate, and they are worried about it. Make no doubt about it—the Turnbull government has pulled this idea straight out of the One Nation playbook, and Senator Pauline Hanson was the first person to welcome the idea and claim credit for it. She tweeted:
Good to see that it looks like the government is now taking its cues from One Nation. Just like last time.
I hope the Prime Minister is happy with himself. He should be very proud of this legislation. We thought he was a small-l liberal and believed in things, but he is cuddling up to One Nation. Is this why the Prime Minister got into politics—to bring legislation like this before the chamber? It is a disgrace. Rather than playing petty politics, muddying the waters with rumoured third-country deals and doing One Nation's bidding, the government should be focusing on securing third-country resettlement options. That is where the government's focus should be. They have utterly failed. We are willing to work with them, but we will not support this demagoguery. We will not support this legislation, and I urge crossbenchers and everyone in this chamber to oppose it.
I rise to speak on the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016. I must say that uncontrolled immigration into Australia has been an issue of great concern to the public and to successive governments—since the early 2000's in particular. It is a divisive issue, and I fully understand some people's anxiety around what appear to be tough, harsh measures. But sometimes there are no easy choices in this life and there is a right path and a wrong path, or a path that leads us to a worse outcome.
John Howard showed courage back in the early 2000's in a move to stop illegal boat arrivals, which were certainly out of control at that time. I remember well the confrontations that John Howard faced in the community, with the drownings and the emergency measures, but certainly the vilification of John Howard was terrible. As he moved around the country and visited university campuses, the protesters were out there and, to them, Howard was the devil reincarnate. But his wisdom and his strength of character were shown to be the right path for Australia, because the boats did stop, and, when the boats stopped, the drownings stopped. And, eventually, some of the protests stopped.
Australia did not take fewer refugees—not at all. Even today, or especially today, we retain one of the most generous refugee resettlement programs in the world. In fact, at the moment, we are lifting this program from around 14,000 a year to 18,750 by 2018-19. Plus, because people have faith in our ability to control the borders and in the way the government is running this part of the policy, we were given the ability to announce the fact that we would take 12,000 Syrians from that terrible crisis over there, those that were most persecuted within that country. So we continue on a good path.
To come back to the Howard years again, once the arrivals stopped, the protests and vilification slowed as well. When, eventually, the detention centres were all empty, all the protests ceased. No-one was drowning, no-one was being detained, many centres were closed and even Christmas Island was mothballed. It shows that, once the border is under control, so many of these other issues just disappear. All that was left, really, in this debate was political vanity. When the Rudd government came to power in 2007 that was all on show, with the agitation of the Left within the Labor Party, its desire to differentiate itself from those harsh Howard years and its belief that we could just change the laws a little because no-one was coming, no-one would notice and it would all be okay. So Kevin Rudd dismantled those laws, and the boats started coming.
Remember, Mr Deputy Speaker—and I am sure you remember well—the great cry from the Labor Party then? 'But it's all about push factors. It's nothing to do with what Australia is doing; it's all these push factors. There are record numbers of refugees in the world,'—as if there are not today—'and it wouldn't matter even if we tried to stop the boats. You couldn't do it anyhow, because the circumstances are so completely different to 2004. We are now in 2008, and there's no way those policies would work. The evil coalition in those days,' the Labor Party would say, 'was just grandstanding,' and the Labor Party continued to defend the indefensible. The results of those policies were 50,000 illegal boat arrivals on 800 boats, the detention centres reopening and new ones being commissioned, and these figures: 8,000 children placed in detention and an $11 billion blow-out in the detention and processing budget.
This is the part that really gets to me: where were the protesters? Where were all those students on the university campuses? Where were those who marched against John Howard's detention centres when Labor built new detention centres and filled them up? Where, even, I must say, were the righteous church lobbies that were so judgemental over the John Howard years? Where were they when Labor presided over one of the worst public policy failures in this nation's history? Where were they? They were silent. They were missing. They were muted. Why was there no criticism of children in detention?
Where was the Human Rights Commission? Why were they not running an inquiry into people held in detention? That is not a question I will answer here, Mr Deputy Speaker—you can reach your own conclusion. They got around to that subject a little later, once the government had changed.
The coalition was elected and immediately did what the Left said was impossible: we stopped the boats. It has now been more than 830 days since a successful arrival. There are no deaths at sea. We have closed 17 detention centres. One I might mention—talk about a better use for a detention centre—was the Ellis Close detention centre in Port Augusta, where, in its place, only a couple of weeks ago, I opened a new drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre. That is a far better use of Australia's resources. No children who arrived by boat are held in detention in Australia. The 2,000 children Kevin Rudd bequeathed to the coalition have all been released. It is worth remembering that when Labor came into power in 2007 there were just four illegal maritime arrivals held in detention.
Having achieved so much, it is unbelievable that those who held their counsel during the Rudd-Gillard years have rediscovered their voice. The outstanding success of Operation Sovereign Borders has stopped dead in its tracks the very lucrative, evil people-smuggling trade. The peddlers of misery, the creators of death by journeys at sea, have stopped. But our intelligence community inform us that they are still there; they are waiting for their opportunity.
I remember that, in the lead-up to the last election, Channel 7 sent a television team to Indonesia, where they looked at those who were queuing for illegal boats. It is estimated that 14,000 people are waiting in Indonesia for the opportunity, for a sign of weakness from Australia. To paraphrase one potential boat traveller: 'We are hoping that Labor win the election because we know they like boat people.' Well, he was certainly half right—whether or not they like boat people, I am not sure, but they certainly do not mind having a rampant trade in people smuggling. Their past actions underline this fact. In fact, their resistance to this legislation today would say that nothing much has changed.
All this has occurred while we have seen a disaster unfolding in Europe. Countries which had earlier expressed concern with Australia's methods are now lining up to see how we have stopped the boats. I remember listening to the German Chancellor when she opened the floodgates to uncontrolled immigration in Europe by basically saying, 'If you can get to Germany, we will look after you.' They are now dealing with the human safety issues that uncontrolled migration present. All the countries they travel through to try to get to Germany are now trying to resurrect borders which they had abandoned 20 years ago. They are dealing with terrible, miserable issues. All this is feeding into Europe's great disquiet that they are losing their identity. I would suggest that the events of the last two years have set up a certain instability within Europe that they will be struggling with over the next 20 years.
Labor lost the election, and the coalition is determined that no false signals will be sent to those people that would wish to arrive in Australia by boat. The message that they just need to be patient and that Australia will blink and allow them in is a message we must not allow to gather speed. That is why we are presenting this legislation for a permanent ban, making sure there is no back door. We are doing no more than giving substance to the statements made previously by Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and the Leader of the Opposition that boat arrivals will never be allowed to settle in Australia.
Our proposal has a date criterion to clearly delineate those who may have tried to come here before the government declaration—which was in fact Kevin Rudd's declaration, when he said: 'As of today, asylum seekers who arrive here by boat without a visa will never be allowed to settle in Australia.' Those who were under 18 at the time they were transferred to a regional processing centre will not be affected by this legislation. It will affect no-one who has attempted to come to Australia since the coalition was elected, because they have all been unsuccessful. It will affect only those who came to Australia while Labor were in power. That is why they should back us in continuing to clean up the mess that they left. But, once again, they have caved in to their Left with gesture politics, pretending to show a little bit of compassion, a little bit of weakness. That will make no difference to the outcome.
We will continue to work hard. We will empty Manus and Nauru, but not by dropping our guard and just letting these people come to Australia because everything else is too hard. We will find suitable countries for these people. Yes, it is hard, it is difficult—certainly it is—but we are up to the task and we will get there. These things take time. The point missed by so many is that, while there are still people in the regional processing centres in Nauru and on Manus Island, no-one is being added to their numbers, because there are no new boat arrivals. The coalition has not been putting people in detention. We are dealing with the people that were left here by the Labor administration.
We will not allow those held in offshore detention to entertain the thought that, if they continue to refuse the options put in front of them of settling in a third country or returning to their home country, they will get into Australia by default. They will not. Yes, it is tough. This is tough legislation, but that is because there are no easy choices in this game—whatever you do has consequences. But it is responsible and it is delivering a better outcome for more people. We accept more refugees into Australia as a result of the solid policies, the successful policies, of this government. We should be given some credit for that—not just some credit but a huge amount of credit. We are delivering a more humane and receptive refugee policy to the world. We will not be dictated to by others and we will not offer false hope. I commend the legislation to the House.
I rise to speak in opposition to the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016. I will go through, as methodically as I can, the rationale given by this government for the merits or otherwise of the proposed changes to the Migration Act. The migration amendment was announced by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration last weekend on Sunday, 30 October. Initially, the Prime Minister stated that the purpose of the bill was to send a clear message to people seeking asylum in Australia that the door is closed. Just following the announcement—almost immediately—Pauline Hanson was quick to remark that it was:
Good to see that it looks like the government is now taking its cues from One Nation.
At first blush, we all looked at the announcement of this proposed legislation and we saw, quite clearly, an overreach by this government and by this Prime Minister, who is so desperate to please the right-wing extremists in his own party and so desperate to please Pauline Hanson and One Nation. And, as we have seen, as the week has progressed, this, very sadly, has been the case. It is a desperate ploy. At the time, I noted that Minister Dutton had once again dragged 'a pained and morally bankrupt Malcolm Turnbull along with him to blow a very loud dog whistle as a sop to Pauline Hanson'.
This so-called legislation is really nothing but a smokescreen for the abject failure of the Turnbull government, which for over three years has failed to find resettlement solutions for the refugees languishing on Manus and Nauru. Asylum seekers have been held in indefinite detention for too long because this government has failed to secure viable third country settlement arrangements. At the time, many of us argued against the nonsensical consequences and the base politics driving this government's proposed legislation. I took a moment to reiterate what I said in my first speech a few months ago in this place: that Australia has a moral, ethical and legal obligation to find a comprehensive solution for the people on Manus and Nauru who are currently in indefinite detention and also to the current international and regional refugee crisis. Of course Labor stands ready, as our shadow immigration minister, Shayne Neumann, said earlier in this debate. We are ready to put aside and ignore the base politics put forward by this government and to find solutions for these refugees in a bipartisan manner—to end the indefinite detention, because that is what we all want to see.
I want to make the point that some of our most admirable Australians have come to Australia as refugees—people like Frank Lowy, Gustav Nossal, Hieu Van Le and my good friend Les Murray, the icon of football in this country. They have gone on to make huge contributions to this country. Their contribution is something to celebrate, and it should not be something that is caught up in the party politics that this government is playing. That is why the Labor leader, Bill Shorten, was so right to rebuke the government for caving in to the extreme far-right-wingers with this proposed legislation. He is also right to say it is ridiculous—ludicrous—that it may prevent someone who was a genuine refugee and settled in another country from ever visiting Australia in a legitimate capacity even years later. The Minister for Immigration stood in this place yesterday and confirmed the bill has a purpose to amend the Migration Act to enable the government to ban genuine refugees from ever entering Australia, on either a temporary or a permanent visa, for life. Section 4 of the bill proposes to insert the following into the Migration Act:
(2AA) An application for a visa is not a valid application if it is made by a person who:
(a) is an unauthorised maritime arrival under subsection 5AA(1); and
(b) after 19 July 2013, was taken to a regional processing country under section 198AD; and
(c) was at least 18 years of age …
These proposed sections have bizarre and ridiculous consequences. We have heard some of the examples, but what if someone resettled in New Zealand—a genuine refugee—became a New Zealand citizen, entered New Zealand politics, entered their parliament, became the Speaker of the lower house in New Zealand and came to visit you, Deputy Speaker Kelly, in a couple of years time? They would be barred from entry this country—the Speaker of the House in New Zealand. Some of the consequences of this are utterly bizarre, ridiculous and nonsensical. In the future, we could have US citizens who become start-up tech gurus and set up companies that have global success, and they would be barred from entry to this country. Some of these examples are so ridiculous that one would have to think twice about them before talking about them. The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection has argued that there is a ministerial discretion for this. So, every time one of these people from overseas seeks to comes here on legitimate business or as a tourist, it would require a minister to provide discretion. It is absolutely ridiculous.
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection has also said in this parliament that there have now been over 830 days since a successful illegal boat arrival. So why is it necessary to now send a further message—to add the draconian measures in this bill that I have just outlined—if the laws are currently working? What is the necessity of it? Then they moved on to the point that the legislation was connected as a precondition of the government entering into a resettlement solution with New Zealand. We have been given no detail. We have seen no detail about this. Our leader, Bill Shorten, sought information from the Prime Minister, as he said in his press conference the other day. But he was given no information. Of course, we all know that the conservative New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, belled the cat on that part of the rationale behind this bill by saying he could not envision a situation where a resettled refugee would gain New Zealand citizenship and not have to travel rights to Australia. He said:
We've got no intention of having separate classes of New Zealand citizens.
So he belled the cat on that part of the rationale for the proposed legislation.
Then, of course, we have seen media reports in the last few days that the government is in the final stages of negotiations to offer permanent resettlement to most of the almost 2,000 refugees on Manus and Nauru. Fantastic—let's see the details of that. Why would the government not come to the opposition, without going into base politics, and talk about bipartisan efforts to resettle the people of Manus and Nauru? I assume they have the right intentions, that they want to see these people resettled—why would they not be talking to the opposition about a bipartisan approach to those negotiations? Reports have stated that several countries would likely be involved, the United States and Canada among them. I suggest to those opposite that the Trudeau government in Canada or a likely Clinton administration in the United States would probably take the same position as Prime Minister Key.
I noted earlier the government's abject failure to resettle the people on Manus and Nauru, after more than three years. The perfect example of this is their efforts with Cambodia. On 26 September 2014, Australia and Cambodia signed an agreement providing for the relocation of refugees from Nauru to Cambodia. In April of this year, Cambodia's top government spokesman admitted that Australia's agreement to resettle refugees from Nauru has failed and that his own impoverished country does not have the social programs to support them. Australia, this government, gave Cambodia $40 million in aid for signing the agreement and has spent another $15 million to get only five refugees to the country. The Sydney Morning Herald reported in April that three of the five refugees who arrived in Cambodia under this deal have returned to their countries of origin and the two remaining in the capital, Phnom Penh, are deeply unhappy and also want to quit the country. It has been an utter failure.
Asylum seekers have been held in indefinite detention for too long because this government has failed in its duty to secure viable third country settlement arrangements as it said it would. As the shadow minister for immigration, the member for Blair, has rightly asked, where has the government, where has the foreign minister, been in regard to these negotiations? I hope there are negotiations in place and that there is the potential for resettlement, because that would be a great result for the people of Manus and Nauru.
The next government rationale for this proposed legislation is sham marriages. They have had about three or four in the space of one week. We had the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection saying sham marriages were the reason for this legislation. He quoted media reports that refugees have undertaken sham marriages in order to obtain an Australian visa as a justification for the lifetime ban. This is despite no-one on Manus or Nauru having actually applied for a partner visa. There might be a handful of cases of sham marriage, but Australia already has robust laws which deal with sham marriages. Section 240 of the Migration Act 1958 already makes it an offence to arrange marriage to obtain permanent residence. It is already there. Section 240 states quite clearly:
A person must not arrange a marriage between other persons with the intention of assisting one of those other persons to get a stay visa by satisfying a criterion for the visa because of the marriage.
So it is unnecessary, and it is not a rationale for this lifetime ban when we already have the laws in place to deal with sham marriages. The penalty, of course, is imprisonment for 10 years. It is clear that this is nothing more than wedge politics, nothing more than base politics, designed to appeal to the worst prejudice and fear in our community. This has been demonstrated by the minister for immigration's pronouncements just last night. On Sky News the minister for immigration, Peter Dutton, again attempted to rationalise this bill—I think this was the fifth rationale; I have lost count. He said:
In this day and age when you've got people running around the world pretending to be refugees, who are not refugees, but are involved in terrorist activities, or are involved in terrorist organisations, you cannot afford to have people coming across your borders when you don't know who they are.
So the minister is now conflating terrorism with refugees. I have worked in national security and I have committed most of my professional life to defending Australia and defending Australians and their security. I know of the great work that the intelligence agencies do, that our security agencies undertake, quietly and unheralded. I know about the strong vetting they undertake to ensure Australians are kept safe. It is absolutely disgraceful that the minister for immigration on Sky News last night was running around talking about refugees being terrorists and that we do not know who they are. Well, we do know, very well. The security agencies and the intelligence agencies of Australia do a fantastic job in making assessments on security and vetting anyone who comes into this country.
The justification for this bill, the rationales that have been provided, has been a frantically moving message since the initial announcement last weekend, on the 30th. It is an absolute disgrace that the government has tried to spend the entire week changing its rationale to justify what is a nonsensical proposal. This issue is very close to my heart, and I am quite passionate about it. As the son of migrants who fled Egypt to escape a region engulfed by war, I appreciate the yearning for a life of peace, security and opportunity. Their sacrifice, and the sacrifice of millions of migrants who have come to this country to help build Australia—not just its physical environment but to add to the diversity of its culture, the generosity of its people and the depth of its humanity—is important to me and the dog whistling that has gone on by this government is an absolute insult to the many millions of migrants who have made this country what it is.
I am committed, as Labor is committed, to Australia's role in the world as a good international citizen, making a difference to people's lives across the globe. The Labor Party is absolutely committed, as Bill Shorten has said, if we were to win government, to negotiating with the UNHCR to resettle the refugees on Manus and Nauru in safe and secure countries. We are committed to doing this because it is the right thing to do, and we will move swiftly to do it. This is bad law, and we oppose it because it is bad law. For the reasons I have outlined, there is no substantive rationale to change the current laws, which by the government's own admission are working. It is base politics. It appeals to the lowest common denominator. It is a desperate play by a desperate government whose model for government is governance by diversion and distraction. On that basis, I oppose this bill.
The coalition's border protection policies have successfully stopped the boats. They have ended the numerous deaths at sea and removed all children from detention. These are facts. They are not controversial and they are not open for debate. The three central pillars of the coalition's border protection policies that have delivered this outstanding result are: turn-backs where it is safe to do so—and there have been 28 or 29 of those on the public record; temporary protection visas; and regional processing. These pillars do not work in isolation. They never have. They are a policy suite. They work together. They complement and enhance each other. None would have succeeded in isolation, but together they have ended the disaster, the tragedy, the desperation, at sea. Removing, changing or making amendments to any one of them will actually destroy the very foundation that Operation Sovereign Borders has put in place in protecting our sovereignty.
I am well aware of how this works. I worked with Scott Morrison, the then shadow immigration minister, in opposition to put together the plan that worked. I introduced Major General Jim Molan to the coalition, and together we worked up the military options and the military plan that would eventually take shape to achieve what has been done to the north of our border. But, notwithstanding the success of the planning, the implementation and the execution of Operation Sovereign Borders, people smugglers will continue, and are continuing, to take advantage of vulnerable people by trying to convince them to get on boats to Australia. Right now, as we speak, there are 14,000 people waiting in Indonesia to board people-smuggling boats to Australia, while the people smugglers know full well that they will never settle in Australia. But the people smugglers are a vile lot, so vile.
If you think about where offshore detention started, it started under a Labor government. They put in place offshore detention. It was Bolkus—serious Left organisers. The current Left organisers in the Labor Party are pathetic. They do not know what they believe. The serious Left organisers understood the vermin that are the people smugglers. They understood that these groups moved down child sex slaves, drugs, guns—the most heinous of crimes they are involved in. Bolkus and co., the Hard Left organisers, quickly understood exactly what was happening and they put in place regional processing because they knew they had to stop the horror of the people-smuggling business. That, of course, finished with the Rudd years, but that bloc is now being put back again.
This bill, the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016, amends the Migration Act 1958 and the Migration Regulations 1994 to prevent illegal maritime arrivals, IMAs, who were at least 18 years of age and were taken to a regional processing country after 19 July 2013 from making a valid application for an Australian visa. It prohibits them from ever, ever, ever doing so. By the way, this is the date that Kevin Rudd signed the regional resettlement arrangement with Papua New Guinea. He declared, with the full support of those opposite:
As of today, asylum seekers who come by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia.
We give practical application to those words. Labor is good at hollow words. It is marvellous at gesture and identity politics. We are good at actually implementing words and making sure they mean something. This legislation applies to people who: are currently in a regional processing centre; have left a regional processing country and are in another one; are in Australia awaiting transfer back to a regional processing country; or are taken to a regional processing country in the future.
The amendments, of course, will include a personal power of the minister to permit a member of this cohort or a class of persons to make a valid application for a visa if the minister thinks it is in the public interest. This is a power the minister has right now, and he exercises it literally every day to allow people to enter the country. Those opposite come up with ridiculous statements like: 'If an immigrant goes to New Zealand, gets elected to parliament and becomes the Speaker, he can't come and visit.' What a nonsense. That is what ministerial direction is all about. That is what ministerial power is all about. Another ridiculous example was given: 'What if an asylum seeker goes to America and creates the next Google, the next start-up, and wants to come to Australia?' That is what ministerial discretion is all about. All of these truism-type shibboleths are thrown up as straw men by those opposite. They are and will be complete and utter rubbish because of the discretional power of the minister. We all know that. Those who have served know that.
The bottom line is: preventing irregular maritime arrivals in the regional processing cohort from applying for a visa to Australia will remove the risk of noncitizens circumventing our border security policies. Under current legislation, people in the regional processing cohort can actually validly apply for and be granted a range of visas, and the government is aware of a number of people in this cohort who have already done this and, in some cases, travelled to Australia. If people are granted visas and travel here, it will only encourage other people in the cohort to also pursue Australian visas in the hope of longer term settlement. Further, if people have voluntarily returned home or volunteered to settle in a third country and if they are able to subsequently travel here to Australia on a tourist visa, it will undermine our assistance in their return and reintegration processes and it will provide a backdoor way of circumventing the government's position. As the minister has already stated, we are now seeing another line coming through, where people are looking to get marriage visas as a way for them to enter Australia, again circuitously, through this back door.
This bill will communicate to those irregular maritime arrivals in regional processing countries that they will never, ever, ever settle permanently in Australia. No matter what the advocates say, no matter what the refugee advocates try to imply and no matter what the vile people smugglers say, this will make it abundantly, patently, blatantly, completely and totally clear that they will never, ever, ever settle permanently in Australia and that those people should engage with the governments of Nauru and Papua New Guinea to take up the return and resettlement packages available to them. IMAs on Papua New Guinea found to be refugees can settle in Papua New Guinea, IMAs on Nauru found to be refugees can settle in Cambodia and IMAs found not to be refugees should depart voluntarily now.
Let us not forget the history of this—and history is important. If we do not remember history, we will repeat the mistakes of the past, and history in this case is not that long ago. When Labor came to power in 2007, there were four—just four—IMAs, irregular maritime arrivals, in detention and none were children. Labor proceeded to tear down the Howard government's successful border protection policies. They thought they were no longer needed. We have heard the rhetoric this week alone, 'Oh, it's been over 800 days since anyone's arrived. We don't need to do that anymore.' Despite the fact that Rudd and Labor said during the 2007 election campaign that they would turn back boats, Rudd never did any of that. He sought the applause of the Left. Of course, he pulled apart the successful border policies, and what we saw was complete and utter chaos.
The facts are startling and the facts are not in dispute. Fifty thousand illegal maritime arrivals came on over 800 boats. The Labor Party were putting out press release after press release, every single day. Eight thousand children were put in detention by those opposite. Let us not forget the result of the chaos that they caused, nor forget the fact that, during the election we just went through, over 50 per cent of those opposite opposed our successful border protection policies and wanted them changed, even though what they were advocating for had led to 50,000 illegal arrivals and 8,000 children in detention. Those opposite opened 17 detention centres and two offshore processing centres. One thousand two hundred people died at sea as a minimum. That is a result of the chaos that those opposite started. These are facts and they are not open to dispute. There was an $11 billion budget blowout.
So the coalition implemented its suite of policies, and the result is quite simple, is quite stark and is not in contention. The chaos has ended; our borders are secure. There have been zero deaths at sea. There have been over 830 days without a boat arrival. Every child has been removed from detention. Those opposite put 8,000 in detention. Seventeen onshore detention centres have been closed. Our humanitarian intake, because of what we have done, has increased from 13,750 to 18,750. Let us not forget that the chaos of the Rudd-Gillard years on border protection got to the point where there were so many people arriving, self-selecting through people-smuggling networks, that Labor closed the entire humanitarian intake for those desperately in need and filled it predominantly with Islamic fighting-age males that had come from Afghanistan and the region into Pakistan, and travelled across Pakistan into Malaysia, from Malaysia to Indonesia, and from Indonesia down to Australia.
The law of the UNHCR and the 1967 convention is very clear: you seek asylum in your first country of safety. If you have fled Afghanistan and you are in Pakistan, surely you are free. If you have fled Pakistan to Malaysia, surely what you are fleeing from in Afghanistan has ended because you are now in a third country. Surely you are free. When you travel from Malaysia to Indonesia, in many cases flying from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta, surely in that fourth Islamic country you are free. But they pay people smugglers to come to Australia. That, in any definition, is not fleeing persecution; that is seeking a better economic life—and that is not in contention either. Because of what we have done, there are no lives lost at sea. We are able to increase the humanitarian refugee program where those opposite saw it decrease to zero. We have been able to provide 12,000 spots during the Syrian crisis for a special one-off intake because we have secured our borders, and that is the benefit of the work we have done.
The great tragedy of all this is: Labor has learned nothing from these mistakes. Some of the old guard have—there is no question about it. Some of the older members among those opposite knew the original Bolkus and Labor hard Left—the real organisers—and knew a thing or two about the vile scum that moved through in the people-smuggling network, but most of them have learned nothing.
This bill reflects the government's longstanding position, and we used to understand it as a bipartisan position, or that was the point Labor made during the election, anyway—that IMAs who have been sent to a regional processing country will never, ever, ever be settled permanently in Australia. Those opposite no longer believe it. I guess the election has passed. We can all move on. It is a bit like superannuation, really. Their super policy was costed the same as ours, except for the extra $1.4 billion in tax announced yesterday. I remember, of course, Peter Garrett making the point in 2007. What did he say? 'When we get in, we'll just change at all. We'll just change everything.' It is very typical.
By not supporting this legislation, Mr Shorten has shown that his word during the election was false—it was a lie. It is quite simple. When Mr Shorten made it very clear that there is a cigarette paper's difference between Labor and us—
The Leader of the Opposition made it very clear during the election that there was a cigarette paper's difference between the government and the opposition. We now know that to be a lie. A great, big, red, bald-faced lie is what it was, and it is a lie told by every single one—
I withdraw, Mr Deputy Speaker. It was a gross untruth perpetrated by all of those opposite, who knew full well that they did not believe in the border protection regime that we have. Those opposite, including the Leader of the Opposition, have shown that their word on this issue means nothing. If those opposite were serious about border protection, they would support the bill. They would make it very clear to those seeking to come to Australia illegally that you will never, ever, ever permanently migrate here. The Leader of the Opposition is making the same mistake that Kevin Rudd made. History will show that, where there are weak borders, people smugglers will flow people in. It is not good enough to do what the member for Isaacs did in the 2013 election, quoting temporaneous circumstance and spending public money to advertise in The Sydney Morning Herald that no-one will ever come here. Remember that?
An honourable member: A full page.
It was a full page—millions and millions of dollars of taxpayers' money—to try and win votes. It was a most disgusting act by the member for Isaacs. That will not work. Only a suite of policies works. The opposition should know better.
It is a great pleasure for me to be here, and to see you sitting in the chair, Mr Acting Deputy Speaker Broadbent. I don't know about the bloke who just spoke though! Nevertheless, I respect the right of the member for Fadden to express his view. I do not have to agree with him, and I do not.
I want to make some observations, though, about history. You see, I have been here a fair while and I well recall events in this place from the late eighties around immigration, the Tampa and the children overboard and then subsequent events leading up to today. What I recall most vividly—and I heard the member for Grey extolling the virtues of former Prime Minister John Howard—to their great shame and everlasting disgrace, is the children overboard. Do you remember the children overboard? I do. You will remember HMAS Adelaidethe ship that was used—and its personnel rescuing people because their vessel had sunk. That was not what the parliament was told and that was not what the people of Australia were told.
Do you remember who the Minister for Defence was at the time? It was Mr Reith. Do you remember him and the Prime Minister showing a photograph of a person on a boat holding up a child and saying that this was about throwing children overboard? That was a lie that I was able to expose. How was I able to expose it? I exposed it accidently. I got handed a disc with 348 photographs of the events of that day taken by Navy personnel which demonstrated absolutely clearly that there were no children thrown overboard. What this was about was people seeking to save their children as the result of a vessel sinking. To their absolute disgrace, the government used it politically to demonize those people seeking to come to this place by sea, accused them of wanting to kill their children as a matter of blackmailing the community into saying, 'Well, let's bring them in,' when, in fact, what we saw where the courageous efforts of Australian naval personnel rescuing people who were dying as a result of a vessel sinking.
None of us in this place, least of all me—Christmas Island, after all, being part of my electorate—sanctions people coming here by sea illegally; none of us. And to think that the government could, as they continually do on a daily basis, accuse the opposition of being soft on people smugglers, that somehow we want to assist people smugglers to restart their nefarious trade to provide the opportunity for young people, older people and children to die at sea yet again, is an absolute insult and an insult to all Australians. I recall the days after the most recent tragedy when we were in government and my friend, Mr O'Connor—who was then the minister responsible—was on Christmas Island and saw the events that happened that day. In the weeks that followed I was there at memorial services. No-one—no-one—can get over the sadness of those events. To have the government try and perpetrate the perfidious lie that somehow we on this side of the parliament, by our actions in opposing this legislation, somehow or other assist people smugglers is to degrade the public debate in this country.
I am sorry, Mr Acting Deputy Speaker; I know what a good person you are. But, unfortunately, it is in the DNA of some in your party to use these events for gross political purposes, knowing factually and truthfully that what they are representing is wrong. Yesterday, the debate in the parliament during question time was most unedifying. The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection was grandstanding—as he is wont to do—and making gross accusations that he knows to be false, supported by the Prime Minister, who came to this place with the expectation of the Australian community that he was somehow or other different when he is not. He is just the same. Threatened or whatever by people in his own party over his leadership, he sinks to the lowest-common denominator. We have seen that in the parliament time and time again.
Of course now we have the very, very unedifying spectacle of him being exposed by the former Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, over claims by the Prime Minister that he sought to beg the then Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, over the issue of asylum seekers. Mr Rudd refutes those assertions and makes it very clear that if there is a lie being told it is not by him but by the Prime Minister. That raises a spectacle which is, again, unedifying, but yet it demonstrates again that truth will not prevail in this place where people are seen to use people who are in this case, on Manus Island and on Nauru as political cannon fodder—because that is what is happening again.
Let us be very, very clear. On 19 July 2013 the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced our policy—the then Labor policy—that would ensure that no asylum seeker who came by boat to Australia would ever settle in Australia. He said:
From now on, any asylum-seeker who arrives in Australia by boat will have no chance of being settled in Australia as refugees.
Our position on this piece of legislation is totally consistent with that claim—totally consistent. There is nothing in what we are saying about this current piece of legislation to put forward the proposition that somehow or another, should someone who is currently on Nauru or Manus seek and become a third-party national—in other words, they go to another country and become a citizen of that country—and then should they seek to come to Australia and settle they would not be allowed to. That is consistent. That is absolutely consistent with the proposition which was put then in 2013 by former Prime Minister Rudd.
What we are being told is that people who might want to come here on a tourist visa some time in the future, or to come and visit family sometime in the future, somehow or another equates to resettlement. No-one in this place understands that argument, because clearly it is wrong.
Well, you certainly do not. When you visit the United States, or wherever you might visit overseas, do you go there to resettle? If you are on a tourist visa, do you get the right to resettle?
And that's the problem. We see in this place people who are so insincere that they will say anything because they want to prosecute an argument that somehow or another says that the Australian Labor Party is in support of people smugglers. Well, you know it is not true. Yet you will continue to prosecute that perfidious argument. And I reckon the Australian community are wise to you. They have woken—
I will tell you what, son, I have news for you, brother: they have absolutely pinged you and they have pinged the Prime Minister and they have pinged the immigration minister. They know precisely what is being said here in this parliament—that the debate that we are seeing here is a construct to try and elevate the Prime Minister's political standing and try to appeal to the grossest elements in the government. The Tea Party elements of the government are ruling the government. The Tea Party elements are determining what the policy should be. The Tea Party elements, with great respect to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, of the government are determining that the arguments that should be put in this place are ones that demonise people seeking asylum in this country and ones that demonise the Labor Party for having the temerity to say that it is improper, inappropriate and wrong to say that people who are currently residing in Nauru or Manus and may want to come here at some future date on a tourist visa should be prevented from doing so.
'That's right,' he says. Not here to resettle but to visit Bondi! 'Well, I can't have you.' You might be wealthy and you might be settled in New Zealand, Canada, the United States, Brazil, Argentina or wherever, but don't think you can come here and surf. You are not going to be allowed to. Don't think you can come here and visit Uluru—which I would love you to do because we like that tourist dollar. We can't have you. Why can't we have you? Because, you poor bugger, at some point in your life you were on Nauru or Manus, and we did not want you because you came here illegally by boat. So, as a result of that, don't you think you can come and visit Uluru or go surfing at Bondi, because you will not be allowed. You mugs. You absolute mugs.
What an insult to the intelligence of the Australian community you are. And you think, somehow, that this gratifying and elevating argument is something we should all support.
Let's understand what others think. Amnesty International has said:
There was a time when Australia led the way on refugee protection.
Following World War II, Australia came second only to the United States on resettling European refugees. Its signature brought the Refugee Convention into force a few years later. And, in the 1970s, it resettled the third highest number of Indochinese refugees following the wars there.
In October 2016, the Turnbull government attempted, before backing down, to introduce laws that would imprison for up to two years doctors, nurses, counsellors and other health professionals if they publicly revealed physical or sexual abuse or medical negligence in Australia's offshore detention centres. How do you equate that with someone who respects human dignity? How do you equate that?
We know that that position is consistent with their current opposition to preventing people visiting Nauru and Manus Island to understand the situation which currently exists—preventing journalists and politicians travelling freely to visit these places and to interview people to get a first-hand account. The secrecy and lack of transparency is mind-boggling. And what is it for? What is it to hide? A corruption of a process by a political party that is so inept that it cannot come to terms with its obligations to treat people respectfully and with dignity. That is what this is ultimately about—understanding that people need to be treated with dignity, humanity, civilly and respectfully.
These people may be there, unfortunately, on Manus and Nauru. Most of them there would be seen as genuine refugees. We will have them resettled somewhere else. Even though they are genuine refugees, when they are—
They're not genuine refugees? You are such an idiot. You are such an idiot. Even though they are refugees, what will happen when they go to this third country and seek to come to Australia for a family visitation or, as I say, to surf at Bondi or to visit Uluru? You are going to say no. That deplorable situation should not be allowed to prevail. We will not let it because we are going to oppose this legislation. I hope that we have sufficient votes in the Senate to make sure that this legislation fails in the Senate, as it should fail here. People with respect for human dignity and for the human condition have to respect the human rights of every individual. I hope people on that side of the chamber will join with the Labor Party and oppose this legislation.