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Mr CADMAN (Mitchell) (11.11 a.m.) —I am absolutely opposed to the amendments and propositions put by the Labor Party. It is no wonder that they are in a state of shock reading the headlines in the Australian today saying that they are going nowhere, have no ideas and do not have the capacity to formulate policies that are cohesive and coherent in order to deal with difficult problems like border protection.

The first line of the recommendations in the amendment that they have moved indicates that we should give greater aid to those countries from which asylum seekers are coming. Let us look at the countries they are coming from. The No. 1 greatest source of people seeking asylum is—would you believe it?—Iraq. Is the Australian Labor Party seriously proposing that we offer aid programs to Saddam Hussein? Is that what you are proposing? That is in your amendment. The first line of your amendment proposes support for Saddam Hussein; the next one for Afghanistan. Australia has done a great deal in Afghanistan and will continue to do a great deal in Afghanistan and in Pakistan.

Ms Gillard interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. I.R. Causley)—Member for Lalor, I have attempted to give you the right to speak.

Mr CADMAN —There is no doubt that these proposed amendments are just crazy. They are unworkable. They have been hatched up, I believe, in a state of mind which indicates desperation to try to find a solution or an alternative argument for these issues.

Ms Gillard interjecting—

Mr Brough interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Minister, we do not need a debate across the table.

Mr CADMAN —Time and again, the Australian Labor Party have been offered the opportunity of providing and assisting in a reasonable alternative to the arrangements for migration in Australia today. Time and again they have been given the opportunity, and time and again they have proposed that here they will offer support and assistance. Time and again they have said, `Just ask us and we will assist,' but in the Senate they vote against the very legislation for which they are offering support in the House of Representatives.

The speeches of the people claiming to represent the views of the Australian Labor Party here in the House seek to placate the government in its objectives but in the Senate you do something opposite. What you are doing is a two-faced stunt that Barry Jones rightly identifies as something that the people of Australia cannot understand. They do not know what you are on about as a party. They do not understand what your principles are. You state one thing here about cooperation and bipartisanship—which usually indicates a state of weakness and confusion, I have to say. It means, `We have no ideas. We want a bipartisan attitude because we know that we are weak on this issue.' But in the Senate you consistently vote against these proposals that the minister has put up.

Fast processing could have happened years ago if the Australian Labor Party had agreed to amendments that the minister wanted to bring to the Migration Act. They were simple amendments, amendments that any reasonable Australian would agree to and every Australian did agree to at the last federal election—and they will continue to do that while ever the Australian Labor Party cannot get through its collective thick head what needs to be done to protect our borders: the proposal that will work out whatever is in the best interests of the nation.

Let me read through the list of what has already been achieved by this government. Time and again this government have moved to block the big business that is propagated by the people who smuggle refugees and asylum seekers. We introduced border protection legislation in 1999, and we have improved the Customs and naval capacities to detect, pursue, intercept and board boats carrying unauthorised arrivals. We have enhanced some of the legislative measures. Under the threat of an election, the Australian Labor Party agreed to those changes in September 2001. They are now walking away from that commitment. They are walking away from the principle that people like Steve Martin, the member for Cunningham, said that he agreed with: [start page 3422]

Firstly, I do not think anyone in this parliament believes that illegals should be offered any sanctuary ...

That is what he said in his speech, when you agreed with exactly the same legislation as we want to pass today. You agreed with it, and now you want to change your mind. You want to have every bet both ways. That is the thing that the Australian people cannot understand: that you do not understand the consistency of the government's point of view of wanting to give people a sanctuary, if they live on an island or a remote area of Australia, to give them the same capacity and freedoms of every other Australian. But the visitors—the blow-ins, those that arrive on their shores from overseas and claim the rights of an Australian or the rights of a refugee—we cannot deal with in that way, and we will not deal with them that way. Those are principles the opposition does not understand and those are principles that the government stand strongly by.

We have changed the Migration Act at the same time to increase the maximum period of imprisonment for people-trafficking and set a mandatory sentence of 20 years for people smugglers. We have increased the number of specialist compliance officers in overseas posts. We have increased the placement of departmental officers in key overseas airports, where they can train airline check-in staff to identify bogus documentation. We have posted specialist liaison officers to key overseas posts for bilateral and multilateral border liaison on readmission and resettlement. There are ongoing short-term visits to key countries by specialist departmental document examiners to help prevent the trade in the smuggling of people. We have maintained multifunctional task forces in Australia and overseas to coordinate investigations, frequently updating Australia's movement alert list. Time and time again this minister and the Australian government have moved to prevent the vicious trade of people-smuggling.

It does not matter how much we have done to prevent it, and the government have been brilliantly successful, people smugglers will be consistently looking for alternatives. They will be looking for other islands and other avenues. The Australian Labor Party have said: `We'll wash our hands of that. We'll give them the opportunities they want. We'll send a signal to them.' You might as well pick up the phone and call somebody in Indonesia, in Hong Kong or in Thailand and say: `We're not going to oppose this. Pick another island; we'll let you have it. We'll let you come, and we'll let you land there and, once on shore, you have got access to legal aid, the Australian courts and every avenue that you would want.' Then you come into the parliament and complain, `Minister, why don't you process them more quickly?' The fact is the minister could process these more quickly if you would let him. Let that legislation through the parliament. You have had plenty of opportunities, and you should let this legislation through this parliament and through the Senate.

Ms Gillard —Which legislation?

Mr CADMAN —You can chuckle and grin, but the fact of the matter is Barry Jones has got it right: you are off the planet in the way in which you are trying to deal with some of these issues. You do not understand the nature of the Australian people. The Australian people do not like people coming here uninvited. They are generous and thoughtful towards people who are in trouble. The Australian Labor Party came into the House today and their first proposal to resolve these problems is to give aid to those countries from where asylum seekers are coming. We have only got to look through the list for processing to see that Iraq and Afghanistan are the two major sources. You are seriously thinking of giving aid to Iraq?

The Australian Labor Party are saying that we should be providing for the care, protection and processing of asylum seekers in countries of first asylum through additional resourcing of the UNHCR. We are pushing people offshore so that the UNHCR can process them. Evidently, the result of the process is not satisfactory to the Australian Labor Party. They would prefer to see asylum seekers come onshore and take advantage of far more lax Australian courts and Australian legal processes. Their actions indicate that they do not want to see people processed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The Australian Labor Party is seeking secure regional and global arrangements. I have indicated time and again that this government have got those arrangements. The minister has travelled, the departmental officers and task force are present, and that is why there has been a stop to boats arriving. This government have taken good, consistent action time and again, thoughtfully planned and thoughtfully executed. We have got the results. The boats are not coming. The alternatives, though, from the alerts the government have received, are there for them to seek other ports of call, other islands, and to subvert the arrangements we have got in place.

This is a government that is seeking to change the rules that apply as to what islands people can land on. They can land on one island under this proposal: they can land on the mainland—and be caught and processed. We are putting up a barrier. A foot on Australian soil grants them a refugee status and the right of stay in Australia. That is what they are thinking. That is what they are being sold.

Ms Gillard —That's not true.

Mr CADMAN —You shake your head. I am amazed that you are so uninformed on these issues. You seemed to deny that you were getting briefings earlier and then it was discovered that you are getting briefings. Certainly, you did not tell your leader about getting briefings. I am amazed at the way in which they operate—not talking to each other. But I am even more amazed that the Australian Labor Party as a prime goal want to give aid to Iraq.

Author: Alan Cadman MP
Source: House Hansard - 20th June 2002
Release Date: 2 Jul 2002


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