House of Representatives Speech- Border Protection

It is very sad to see the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the National Party and the member for Farrer continuing with their campaign of drumming up fear and hysteria around the country. It is a campaign that they have been attempting to wage now for several weeks. It has echoes of their disgraceful campaign in 2001 and the other disgraceful campaigns they waged in government—and I can give direct testimony of the disgraceful campaign that was waged in my electorate during the 2007 election campaign.

It is very sad to see the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the National Party and the member for Farrer continuing with their campaign of drumming up fear and hysteria around the country. It is a campaign that they have been attempting to wage now for several weeks. It has echoes of their disgraceful campaign in 2001 and the other disgraceful campaigns they waged in government—and I can give direct testimony of the disgraceful campaign that was waged in my electorate during the 2007 election campaign.

What is entirely absent from anything that was said by the Leader of the Opposition or the Leader of the Nationals, let alone the member for Farrer, was any recognition of the global reality of millions and millions of displaced persons around the world escaping situations of persecution and war. The statistics that were missing—and there were plenty of statistics offered by the Leader of the Opposition—were the sorts of statistics we can read in the UNHCR 2008 global trends report, which talks about 42 million forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2008, including 15.2 million refugees. Just to add to that, a staggering 44 per cent of all refugees and asylum seekers were children, under the age of 18.

The report confirms that those seeking asylum in Australia are part of a worldwide trend which is driven by insecurity, persecution and conflict. I quote from something that the UNHCR regional representative, Richard Towle, said in March this year:

Insecurity, persecution and conflict around the world are leading to greater numbers of people seeking asylum in industrialised nations, including Australia.

Not only can one point to this worldwide wave of displaced persons seeking asylum in this country and in very many other countries around the world, it is also possible to say, from looking at these statistics, that the numbers of people seeking asylum in our country are relatively small in global terms. One could start with the example of Kenya, which the member for Fraser just gave to the House, or one could point to European examples, which I will mention. In 2008 alone, there were 36,000 unauthorised maritime arrivals in Italy, 15,300 in Greece and 13,400 in Spain and the Canary Islands. For people from various African countries seeking refuge, the Canary Islands are a piece of Spanish territory that is reached by an appallingly difficult, dangerous trip across about 1,000 kilometres of open sea in the Atlantic. One can also look at the present experience of countries like Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Pakistan, all of which are harbouring hundreds of thousands—and, in the case of Pakistan, millions—of displaced persons. That gives context to the problem that is being faced not merely by Australia but by countries worldwide.

We heard not one single proposal in today’s speeches from the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the National Party and the member for Farrer as to what the opposition would do in relation to this problem. Publicly we have heard next to nothing as to proposals from the opposition to deal with this problem. We have heard a suggestion that they would like Australia to return to the failed temporary protection visa policy of the former government. Perhaps they are hinting that they would like to return to the failed Pacific solution, involving the sending of tens of millions of dollars to Nauru and the sending of displaced persons to Nauru, a tiny speck of land out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Perhaps they are hinting that they would like to see a return to the keeping of children behind razor wire, which was another feature of the policies of the former government.

We heard some more from both the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the National Party about some alleged special deal. There is nothing special about picking up people in distress at sea. Perhaps the special deal which the opposition would like to visit upon those in peril on the sea is for them to be allowed to drown, because that is the implication of what is said by those opposite. They have no policies. They are incapable of dealing rationally with this problem.