Thursday, 17 July 2014
Questions without Notice
My question is to the minister representing the immigration minister, Senator Cash. Considering that the Abbott government is currently holding 153 asylum seekers, including dozens of children, against their will at a secret location in the Indian Ocean, will the government answer a simple question about the welfare of those on board: how many nappies, Minister, if any, and what clean clothes have been taken to the vessel for the children detained?
As I have stated previously, the matter is currently before the High Court, and, accordingly, it would not be appropriate to comment any further on the matter. I can, however, reiterate the words of the minister, who has stated that any person who is in the care and protection of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service will be in good care, and they are in good care.
I would also make this point, however: as Senator Hanson-Young raises the issue of the children, I will just remind the senator and those opposite that, in 2007, when the Howard government lost office, there were four people in immigration detention who had arrived by boat, and not one of them was a child. The reason that we are in this situation today is due solely, completely and utterly to the fault of those on the other side who were so actively encouraged, on a minute-by-minute basis, by the Australian Greens, led, of course, by Senator Hanson-Young, who, it is unfortunate, sometimes does believe that immigration policy is formed on the basis of an episode of Sea Patrol. Senator Hanson-Young, I can assure you: it is far more serious than that—in particular, when the policies you supported contributed directly to in excess of 1,200 innocent men, women and children dying at sea. They are the policies you support; they are not the policies that those on this side support.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. According to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, the ACV Ocean Protector has austere accommodation for up to 120 potential transportees. Considering the capacity of the largest Customs vessel falls short of the number of refugees or asylum seekers on the boat, does the government concede that those people and the Australian crew on board are being forced to live in cramped, unsafe conditions and are risking endangering their lives?
Again I reiterate to the Senate that, as this matter is before the High Court, it would clearly be inappropriate for me to comment, but I will say: please be assured that those on this side of the chamber have complete, total and utter faith in the good men and women of Customs and Border Protection, who are the people on the ground—not us here—that every single day ensure that Australia's borders are kept secure. I say thank you to the men and women of Customs and Border Protection and, quite frankly, Senator Hanson-Young, to insinuate that they are in any way not caring for people is demeaning.
Mr President, I ask a second supplementary question. Has the government considered the potential psychological harm that is being inflicted on children when they are held in the hull of the Customs vessel, being locked behind doors in rooms with no windows?
Again I refer to my previous answer in relation to the matter currently being before the court, but I would again say to Senator Hanson-Young: why did you not show the same interest every single time one of those 1,200 people who are confirmed dead at sea because they got on a leaky boat and risked their lives because your policies encouraged them to do so—
The mere fact that you can come into this place and accuse this government of not caring is total, complete and utter hypocrisy and does not stand up when you look at the facts.