Wednesday, 27 June 2012
Migration Legislation Amendment (The Bali Process) Bill 2012; Consideration in Detail
I encourage all members in the House to support the very thoughtful, sensible and honourable amendments that the member for Cook has brought to this legislation. We have not had the opportunity to discuss the opposition's amendments; we are faced with the bill of the member for Lyne which in large part reflects the government's earlier legislative proposal. We are seeking to include in it amendments which are really quite straightforward. They say that, if unlawful arrivals who end up in our care are to be placed somewhere else for processing or somewhere else while their claims are assessed, they should be able to have the protections that would have been afforded to them had they been in Australia's immediate care. The amendments embody a simple idea of a continuum of care. It is a simple idea which, the High Court found, the government's so-called Malaysian solution did not meet. The High Court said basically that Australia signed up to these responsibilities and that, if we choose to transfer people offshore for processing, we do not all of a sudden pass over any need to maintain those responsibilities.
What the member for Cook's amendments are about—and I was quite interested to hear from the member for Chifley on the unseen—is to make sure that in relation to the unseen, which in this case is people who have arrived unlawfully being processed offshore away from our sight and away from our immediate control, we uphold the responsibilities and the protections which we would have to uphold if they remained in our immediate and direct care. I would much rather be debating the full package needed to stop the tragedies.
I pay my enduring respects to and would like to lessen the work of the men and women of the ADF who have been deployed on Operation Reflex and to those customs officials and courageous Federal Police and other government officials who have to arrive at the site of tragedy to do work which—we can only imagine—is as challenging to the body and the soul and as soul-destroying as you could possibly think. The best way to lessen their work is to stop the boats. A discussion around what is needed to stop the boats would be an extraordinarily good use of this parliament's time. It would pay respect to the member for Berowra. I admire his courage, his wisdom and his compassion in putting together policies which did just that.
As I said, the member for Chifley's made some remarks about the unseen. The package that the member for Berowra oversaw implemented by the Howard government effectively brought the boat movements into our country to a trickle. When the Howard government left office there were four—just four—people in immigration detention as a result of their having arrived unlawfully on a boat. We had stopped the boats because we had stopped the need for that tragic journey. I think it is important for everybody to realise why people take these risks, why stopping the boats is important and why we need to take away the incentive for people seeking asylum to embark on this dangerous journey which places them at risk. We need to take that incentive away not just because of the tragedy that we would hope would be avoided but also to deal with the unseen. I remember defending the Howard government's position and I said, 'I speak for those asylum seekers who do not have the resources, the wealth or the freedom to leave where they are to transit through regions in our vicinity in order to get into a position to pay a people smuggler to get on a boat to get to our country.' Those people are the unseen. The disincentive they face by not having those resources and those comparative freedoms to embark on this incredibly dangerous journey deserves a conversation as well as those who are able to arrive with a tailwind for their processing and a tailwind for their prospects to gain a place in the big-hearted program of Australia which sees us settle and proactively support 13,000 humanitarian visa recipients. If you are not able to get that tailwind, and you face a headwind because you do not have the resources to make the journey, that is itself a tragedy.
We should be stopping the boats. We should be focusing on the unseen, not just those who make this horrendous boat journey but also those who never have the option to do so. But above all we should make sure that where we pass those in our care to others to look after we do not turn our back on our responsibilities. (Time expired)