Senate debates

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Matters of Public Importance

National Security

4:08 pm

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

The coalition supports the proposition that is before the chamber. Let's remember that a fundamental purpose of the nation-state is, in fact, to protect those within it. Therefore, if a nation-state cannot protect its borders, it is not a nation-state worthy of that description. That is why the Howard government embarked upon a border protection policy which worked, and, as a result, we stopped the gatecrashers coming into Australia.

In 2007 Labor leader Kevin Rudd promised that he too would turn back the boats and that he too would ensure the protection of our borders. But what did the Labor-Greens government of the 2007 to 2013 era do?

They went back on their promise to the Australian people and allowed over 50,000 people to come to Australia via criminal people smugglers. They were of the view that people who could afford criminals should be given priority over those in actual need. So we as a government in 2013 went to the Australian people saying we would again stop the boats, we would turn back boats and we would have a refugee intake based on need, not on capacity to pay criminal people smugglers. We did that and we achieved that.

So why are we today still talking about people on Manus and Nauru? It is the legacy of the Labor-Greens governments. Let us never forget that. The reason that we have legislation now on the books, the so-called medevac law, is as a result of Labor and the Greens taking advantage of a minority situation during the last parliament to try to force this issue and signal to the world, and indeed to all Australians, that they had not learnt the lesson of the 2007 to 2013 era of allowing 50,000 people to literally gatecrash Australia, part of which—might I remind you—saw over 1,000 people drown at sea. Where is the social justice in that? Where is the social justice in denying refugee status in Australia to people who are needy, because they've been displaced by people who have been able to afford to pay criminal people smugglers, by people who have never set foot in a refugee camp? But they're the people that Labor and the Greens and the Left and GetUp! would support in favour of those genuinely in need. That is why so many of the refugees that have come to Australia in recent times and have become Australian citizens actually voted for the coalition, because they saw the injustice of the Labor-Greens-GetUp! approach in allowing boat people to come here who had never set foot in a refugee camp. But those who had been living in a refugee camp for 10 to 20 years waiting for resettlement saw that the coalition policy was in fact the correct policy and it was the just policy, and we on this side believe that is the right way to go.

Later today, the people of Australia will be regaled by what I am sure will be an excellent speech by the new member for Braddon, which will follow an excellent speech given in the first week of the 46th Parliament by the member for Bass. Labor and the Greens might like to think and contemplate why it is that those two seats changed hands? Can I say to the Labor Party—I don't know why I'm giving them this gratuitous advice—one of the reasons is their constituency, which had previously voted Labor, saw through Labor's medevac laws, where they cooperated with the Greens and with GetUp!, and told the people of Braddon and Bass that they had not learnt the lessons in relation to border protection.

Coming to the actual medevac bill, which was forced through this parliament, and which I hope will be repealed as soon as possible, it is an insult to the people of Manus and Nauru, because what they're basically saying is that the medical provisions that the ordinary citizens of Nauru and Papua New Guinea have are not of a sufficient standard. If that is what the Greens and Labor genuinely believe, why is it then that not everybody from Manus or Nauru that has a medical situation should be allowed to come to Australia? It is a very patronising and ugly reflection on Nauruans and on our friends in Manus.

The legislation that Labor and the Greens forced through the parliament without any consultation with experts or our national security people was designed to send a signal to the green, Left inner-city types that they would go back on strong border protection. That was the signalling that they undertook. They undertook it sufficiently successfully to make the Australian people realise that if they wanted to keep strong borders they had to return the coalition government. That is what the people of Australia did on 18 May. They did not only renew the government's mandate, they in fact increased it.

If the Labor Party and the Greens want to continue to go down this line of saying, 'This medevac law is a good law,' I say you are welcome to it, but the Australian people have sought to send you a message in relation to border protection. They've tried to send you a message in relation to what a just, fair and reasonable refugee policy and intake is. Labor can continue to live in denial, but we as a government will continue to ensure that we have good, strong border protection policies and that we do not send any signals to the criminal people smugglers that we are open for their terrible trade in human misery.

Let's be very clear, there was no medical emergency in relation to the people on Nauru and Manus. Indeed, during the period of the medevac bill, over 900 people have been brought to Australia for particular medical treatment. They were treated on a fair and reasonable basis. So why is there this legislation when Labor, the Greens and GetUp!! knew about the actual numbers and the provision that we had to look after them?

We were told during the debate when it occurred—I recall telling the Senate during that debate—that there was one celebrated case of a person demanding evacuation to Australia. The doctors thought it was not necessary. Legal action was being taken. You can imagine the rest. The person was finally evacuated, but not on a normal, regular flight. It had to be a charter flight to Brisbane. That was undertaken at a cost of over $100,000 to our fellow Australians. The person was taken to hospital and diagnosed with, dare I say it, constipation. Doctors had signed off on this and, as soon as the person arrived in Australia, what happened? Lawyers went to work to ensure the person couldn't be taken back from whence that patient came from. This is the sort of manipulation that, sadly, occurs.

As Senator Roberts indicated to the Senate: you can have two activist doctors say, 'On the basis of what we read, this person should be medevaced to Australia,' without actually having seen the person or spoken with the person in any way, shape or form. Is that the way to run government? Is that the way to run national security? Is that good stewardship of the taxpayers' dollar? The answer to each of those questions is no, no and no, which begs the question: why is it that the Labor Party and the Greens persist, and continue to persist, with this nonsense, which should by now have embarrassed them into a quiet retreat and putting the white flag up the flagpole? Whilst the Labor Party and the Greens will not learn the lessons of 18 May, the Australian people can be assured we will continue to pursue strong border protection for our nation.


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