Select Committee on the Regional Processing Centre in Nauru - Report


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (17:34): This inquiry was another attempt by the Labor Party and the Greens to blame the coalition government for a situation which evolved during the time of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government—in fact, during the second Rudd government. This was a references committee set up inappropriately. It was about the fourth committee that the Greens and the Labor Party had set up. It achieved absolutely nothing, except to show that Mr Kevin Rudd, as the Labor Prime Minister, set up this regional processing centre without proper thought in a matter of weeks before the election to try to overcome a political problem he had with the unregulated entry of illegal arrivals into our country. Mr Rudd had eventually worked out that Mr Howard was correct and that the proper process was to set up these regional detention centres. Mr Rudd did that but, unlike Mr Howard, he did it within a matter of days and without proper consideration. Of course, those opposite were part of that government. If anyone had given it any thought and if they were seriously looking at the issue, they would have said to Mr Rudd at that time, 'You can't set this up in a matter of minutes because it will end in tears.' And in tears it did end.

My colleague Senator Reynolds assiduously tried to participate in this, as did I. I was asked to participate in this. But with this committee—as with a similar committee—the times for hearings seemed to be set up when they knew coalition people could not be there. I suspect that it was not often that the two coalition members we able to be there. There were only two coalition members on this committee. Notwithstanding that the coalition has the majority of senators in this chamber, the coalition was only given two out of six or seven positions on this committee. That is the way the Labor Party and the Greens attempt to run these dodgy committees—hoping to get a result that attacks the coalition government for something the Rudd government did with the support of the Greens political party.

Senator Reynolds, in senators' statements just yesterday, actually gave a very detailed response to the matters that Senator Gallacher has just, again, raised. Senator Gallacher, in previous contributions—six times, I am told—has tried to defend this committee and has personally attacked Senator Reynolds. Senator Reynolds has responded, and if anyone is interested in this debate I would urge them to look at Senator Reynolds's statement in senators' statements yesterday, or the day before, to see the real truth of the matter.

As I said, this is the third or fourth or fifth inquiry that the Greens initiated—and the Labor Party goes along with them—trying to—

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock.

Senator Gallacher: Mr President, a point of order: the honourable senator opposite is referring to five or six reports into Nauru—

The PRESIDENT: That is a debating point.

Senator Gallacher: Well, I do not think there have been five or six reports into Nauru.

The PRESIDENT: That is a debating point. There is no point of order.

Senator Gallacher: There is no point of order—he can misrepresent the position?

The PRESIDENT: You can address that in a different forum. A point of order relates only to the conduct in this debate.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I can understand that Senator Gallacher is trying to stop me, because I know people listen to this on a Thursday afternoon. Senator Gallacher and the Labor Party will do anything to stop the people of Australia understanding how the Labor Party and the Greens political party have wasted taxpayers' money on many inquiries into the same issue. They call them different names. They set them up in different committees. But it is the same old same old. And I say to—well, I will not mention names—one of the participants from the Greens political party who has a standard set of emotive words to put to these inquiries, and usually a tear or two to go with it, that this is an absolute disgrace. It is a farce of the Senate committee system, and the sooner senators understand this the better.

But I will conclude on this point: if Senator Gallacher has a problem with the conditions and circumstances at the regional processing centre in Nauru, he needs to look at the root cause of that. The root cause of it was the hurry in which his Prime Minister, the Labor Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, set up these regional processing centres, without proper thought, without care, without any consideration of what might happen if he did this without proper support. All of these inquiries have shown, when the departments have been able to give evidence, that things just were not set up before these illegal arrivals were sent to these regional processing centres. They were not properly prepared. There were not the proper facilities. There were not the proper staff. The staff who worked there had not been properly trained. As a consequence, there were problems at these institutions, but they are all problems that were of Mr Rudd's making when he was the Labor Prime Minister. I look forward to Senator Carr's contribution to this debate, because he was a minister in Mr Rudd's government, which set up these regional processing centres. I would like to hear from Senator Carr his lame excuses for why they did that the way they did. After years of saying Mr Howard was wrong, suddenly, with an election approaching in 2013, Senator Carr and Mr Rudd thought, 'Gee—Howard was right after all; we'd better re-establish these things.' But it was done in such a short time, just because there was an election coming up, and all these problems evolved.

I want to congratulate Senator Reynolds for the sterling effort she and her colleagues put into this dodgy inquiry, if I can call it that. It was very difficult for Senator Reynolds or any of us on this side to attend, because that is how these committees seem to run these days: 'Find out when coalition senators are not available, notwithstanding the fact that they represent most of the citizens of Australia in this chamber; make sure that they cannot be properly represented so we can ask all the dodgy questions of public servants and try to browbeat and bully public servants fortuitously.' I saw a bit of that and have read some of the transcript. The public servants were up to the task. I want to congratulate the public servants who have done a wonderful job in trying to fix the problems created by the Labor Prime Minister, Mr Rudd. They are very professional. They worked under extremely difficult circumstances. Having done what they could to help Mr Rudd through his stupidity, they then get attacked in these sorts of committees for their alleged breaches. They have done a wonderful job, and I congratulate them.

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