Matters of Public Importance - Asylum Seekers


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (16:54): Excuse me, Madam Acting Deputy President, I've got to stop laughing. Can I say to the previous speaker: well, what a refreshingly different speech. In fact, I almost think it might be a speech that Senator McKim copied from me because, for years, I've been saying, 'Don't blame the coalition,' as Senator McKim always does, 'blame the people who set it up, the Labor Party.' Of course, Senator McKim's never understood that point until Batman comes along. The rank hypocrisy of the Greens was shown in that speech supposedly concerned about people they call distressed and disadvantaged on Manus and Nauru, but there was not a word about them, only about the Batman by-election and the huge fight they're having with the Labor Party for that particular seat. I cannot believe that any party claiming any responsibility or honesty could, for years, have sided with the Labor Party.

You'll recall, Madam Acting Deputy President Kitching, that it was the Greens that kept in power the Labor Party, which set up Manus and Nauru. Congratulations, Senator McKim—when you said you were going to deliver some facts, I laughed audibly—you did deliver some facts, but it is the first time you have ever, ever, ever accepted the reality: it was the Labor Party who started Nauru and Manus and they were supported by the Greens political party. The Greens political party come with dirty hands to this debate and always have.

I can only simply chuckle to myself how this speech supposedly on humanitarian efforts in Nauru and Manus turned entirely on the Batman by-election, with no pretence made. Senator McKim, in one of his rare honest speeches, admitted that it was all about voting Green in the Batman by-election. One of the great benefits for me is that I don't have to vote in Batman—because I just don't know who I could vote for if my party didn't stand a candidate.

On the basis that this might have been a sensible debate about Australia's migration policy over the years, I did want to mention some real facts: under the Labor government, supported by the Greens' political party—it was a Labor-Greens alliance, you might remember—50,000 people arrived on over 800 boats; there were 1,200 deaths that we know of; over 8,000 illegal migration arrivals—children—were detained while Labor and the Greens were in power; and, at the height of the policy failure of the Labor and the Greens' political parties at that time, there were 10,201 people held in detention, including 1,992 children—

Senator Williams: Ten thousand?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Yes, 10,000, and almost 2,000 children. They were forced to open 17 new detention centres at huge cost to the Australian taxpayer to deal with the influx of these illegal arrivals, and an $11 billion border protection blowout happened under the Labor-Greens policy on illegal migration arrivals. That all changed from the Howard days, when there were no children in detention and, since the advent of a coalition government, all of those children have been taken out of detention. Mind you, as the coalition was getting rid of all those children, the Human Rights Commission and Professor Triggs decided they would have an inquiry into the children in detention. They didn't bother at the height of Labor's failures and the Labor-Greens failures, when there were almost 2,000 children in detention. When the coalition had got that down to about a thousand—now it is zero—the Human Rights Commission started to have this big inquiry into children in detention. They didn't bother when the Labor-Greens policy had put them all there.

I'm delighted that, since the advent of the coalition government, the illegal arrivals have stopped completely. There's not been one IMA boat into Australian waters in that time. That has meant that there have been no deaths at sea. It also means that the people smugglers who made a fortune out of bringing in IMAs to our country have all but gone out of business. The people smugglers knew their business. The would-be illegal immigrants to Australia paid a lot of money to fly from wherever to Malaysia or Indonesia. They then paid the people smugglers at least $15,000 per person—they weren't poor people—to try and come into Australia illegally.

Australia and Australians have nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to our refugee policy. Per capita, we are up there amongst the most generous in the world. We actually look after genuine refugees who wait for years in squalid camps around the world, waiting for their turn to get to the promised land of Australia, and we take in about 15,000 each and every year. But these people that the Greens support, and the people smugglers that apparently the Greens support, were jumping the queue, meaning those in the squalid camps overseas were left to wait another year for their chance to reach utopia.

All of this was supported by the Greens political party, who now want the people of Batman to think that they are the only ones that are pure as far as this is concerned. I would love to have a look at the political donations to the Greens political party one day in detail and see the source from overseas of some of their support, because I do know this: the people smugglers have all but been put out of business, and it's cost millions and millions of dollars to their business model. Their only supporters, their real supporters in Australia, have been the Greens political party. One always wonders whether the people smugglers are not rewarding those who help their business model in Australia.

The Labor Party is equally guilty. But it was the Labor government—with Greens support, I emphasise—who did actually return to the Howard-years solution by saying to people, 'You might try to get to Australia, but you're not going to end up here.' That has stopped those jumping the queue. It's allowed us to take genuine refugees from the squalid refugee camps right around the world and bring them into our country, where they are welcome. We take more per capita than any other country in the world. And, most importantly, we don't have at least 1,200 people—that is the number that we know of—drowning at sea. The Labor Party returned to the Howard government solution. They didn't do terribly well with it, but, with the change of government to the coalition government, we have stopped the boats and stopped those deaths at sea. For some reason, the Greens don't seem to think that's good policy.

We do what we said we'd do. Those people on Manus and Nauru are well treated and they are given every assistance—better assistance than many Australian disadvantaged people. They are looked after, but they know they will never come into Australia while this government is here. Their only hope is for the Greens and the Labor Party to get back into power. Then they and the people smugglers— (Time expired)

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