Senate debates

Thursday, 28 June 2012


Migration Legislation Amendment (The Bali Process) Bill 2012; Second Reading

11:27 am

Photo of Bob CarrBob Carr (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | Hansard source

After the High Court's decision, arrivals tripled from 314 in October to 895 in November. The inescapable fact that the coalition and the Greens continue to ignore is that the Malaysian solution is the only proposal we have which has any hope of cracking the people smugglers' business model. All the available information from asylum seeker communities in source countries and those who arrive in Australia confirms conclusively that the absence of a clear deterrent is seen as an open door to Australia.

The bill before the Senate is premised on Australia's interests to work in partnership with countries in the region under the Bali process. As co-chair of the Bali process, along with my Indonesian counterpart, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, I am committed to pursuing a regional solution to a regional problem. The Bali process is a regional mechanism for responding to a regional problem. Two years ago, under the leadership of Indonesia and Australia, the 43 Bali process members agreed to a regional cooperation framework. Among other things, the framework commits members to eliminate irregular movement facilitated by people smugglers. The Malaysian arrangement is the first entered into pursuant to that framework. Critics of the Malaysian arrangement have been vocal, although silent on one critical question: would it work? I said it would. The government says it would. The experts say it would. I have heard no cogent argument to the contrary. It would work because it is a powerful disincentive. Without the Malaysian arrangement, all we have is an improvised Indonesian arrangement that the Indonesians do not want; that the coalition says it would aggravate, by somehow sending boats back to crowded Indonesian ports; and that is inhumane because it encourages people to put their lives in the hands of people smugglers, paying them $10,000 for transport on the high seas. Without the Malaysian arrangement, we are left with an altogether unsatisfactory, improvised, cobbled-together Indonesian arrangement, which the Indonesians do not want and which puts people's lives at risk but which is an incentive for people in coffee shops and on street corners in Indonesian ports and elsewhere to strike deals that have people paying money to take the risk of attempting to come here. If they knew that they were going to get no further than Malaysia, where their claims would be assessed and their applications processed, and they would come no further if they could not make their case, they would not give money to the people smugglers. That is the case for the Malaysian arrangement.

By transferring irregular maritime arrivals to Malaysia, we take away from people smugglers their only selling point—that they and they alone can provide a new life in Australia for their customers. Why pay those tens of thousands of dollars to a people smuggler and endure dangerous sea voyages just to end up, in the middle of your journey, in Malaysia? No sensible people would do it; the demand would dry up. Before it was struck down by the High Court, it was acting as a disincentive—


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