Senate debates

Thursday, 28 February 2013


Suspension of Standing Orders

3:19 pm

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

As Senator Abetz indicated, the opposition will not be supporting a suspension of standing orders, but not because we seek to deny the opportunity for Senator Hanson-Young to have her motion put to a vote. We obviously support the right of all senators to have their motions put to a vote, but there are forms and there are processes in this place. Senator Hanson-Young gave notice this afternoon of her motion. The practice in this place is that motions are not debated on the same day that notice is given.

Without wanting to get into the substantive elements of the motion that Senator Hanson-Young seeks to move—this is a procedural debate—I note that Senator Hanson-Young's motion did not provide any context as to the reasons for the motion. The motion itself did not state who was allegedly doing the vilification. In Senator Hanson-Young's contribution, she did canvass, in the form of debate, some of those matters. Given that latitude has been given to Senator Hanson-Young in relation to those elements, I will also touch on some elements that might be more appropriately considered as debate, Mr Deputy President.

The prime concern of the opposition in relation to these matters is the welfare of people who come by boat to this nation seeking asylum, seeking the opportunity to make application for asylum. I think it is important that we go back to why we find ourselves in this situation. That is because the Labor Party and the Australian Greens together sought to systematically dismantle the arrangements that the Howard government had in place. Yes, we know that the arrangements that were put in place by the Howard government were the subject of great debate. Not everyone liked the measures that were put in place by the Howard government. But what is unarguable is that they were effective. The boats did stop. There were only a handful of people who were in detention at the time that the Howard government left office.

Our prime objective is to stop people being put in harm's way in the first place. We do not want people to be taken advantage of by unscrupulous people smugglers. We want people to not be in harm's way. We have seen a dramatic increase—month by month, year by year—since 2007 in the numbers of people who are put in harm's way. That is why we find ourselves in this situation where there are something of the order of 8,000 or 9,000 or 10,000 people on bridging visas who have been placed in the community.

What the opposition is seeking to do is to have a freeze placed on people who have arrived by boat and are on bridging visas being placed in the community, until a review can be completed. The review would look at the circumstances in which people are placed in the community, where people are placed in the community and who should most appropriately be notified of those community placements. The rationale for notification of authorities is not to have individuals on some sort of a watch list. It is so that people like the police have a greater awareness of the various elements in the community that they are responsible for policing. There is another element and that is concern for the welfare of people have been placed in the community, because people who arrive by boat and who have made application for asylum are often vulnerable and can be taken advantage of. What the opposition is proposing is intended for their welfare. That is the starting point and the end point for the opposition. We do not want people to be put in harm's way getting to this country and we may want to make sure that the community and people seeking asylum are safe. (Time expired)


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