Senator SCULLION (Northern Territory) (3:07 PM) —I move:
That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship (Senator Evans) to questions without notice asked by Senator Brandis today, relating to asylum seekers.
The questions provided by Senator Brandis were very clear. They were questions that the minister should have expected, given that an identical question was asked the day before and clearly not answered.
What we had was a spray of indignation from the other side, which talked about the low road and about base politics and which basically did not answer the question. We would have thought that the minister would have been able to provide answers to an absolutely essential question about the number of deaths and the circumstances surrounding the reporting of the number of deaths. I quote from Tuesday’s Sydney Daily Telegraph:
The constant arrival of claimed asylum seekers off Australia’s northern coastline comes with a dreadful toll.
More than 150 men, women and children, lured by the promises of people-smugglers and a belief that Australia offers easy sanctuary, have drowned at sea since 2008.
It clearly makes the connection between policy and an outcome.
It is very sad that we saw, in what can be described as no better than an artifice of indignation, the minister, who has become an absolute high priest of hypocrisy, standing in this place and saying that we are the ones who are lowering ourselves, asking how low we can go and then talking about the low road. Perhaps he should refer himself to a contribution made on Tuesday by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland. Again, it has been reported:
The federal opposition has been urged to rethink its plan to restore temporary protection visas (TPVs), with the policy having been blamed for the deaths of hundreds of women and children.
That may be quoting from a media article, but I have satisfied myself by reading the Hansard that that is the case.
This is the height of hypocrisy; it was an important question. Instead of puffing up these feathers of false indignation the minister should actually answer the question. Of course, he is in complete denial that there is any aspect of this policy that can be connected with people making the choice and allowing people smugglers to ensure that people make for these shores. He said in his response today, ‘I take no responsibility. It is not our policy to blame at all.’ Let’s hear what an Afghan asylum seeker had to say last week about what is attracting people to Australia. This man was interviewed in Indonesia on ABC’s The 7.30 Report and he had an expectation of coming to Australia. He said in the interview that he prayed for the Rudd government.
Senator Brandis —I bet he prays for their re-election!
Senator SCULLION —Indeed. And then he said that they are accepting asylum seekers and, ‘God willing, they will win the next election.’ It is absolutely clear that it is the policies that are ensuring that we are driving innocent people into the hands of international criminals, who are the people smugglers. Of course, that environment is being caused by people who are in complete denial that it is their policies that are driving this movement.
It is not only the tragic cost in lives; it is a great cost to our economy. They are in complete denial about the numbers. More people have arrived this month than arrived in total during the last six years of the Howard government, once our full suite of measures were in place. One month and there were more than the entire last six years of the Howard government! It is absolutely appalling, and it is due, clearly, to those policies.
But as I said, the policies have cost us on a number of fronts. Senator Evans has decided that forecasted illegal boat arrivals are going to drop by 60 per cent in the next two weeks. He was not all that confident—he said:
I am not very confident that we can with any surety say that the 2,000 figure that is used for accounting purpose in that budget paper can be supported.
He does not believe it; he does not even believe his own budget papers. When he was asked in estimates about when there was any change to policy to back up the 60 per cent fall in illegal arrivals his answer was, ‘No, there is no change of policy; we just think it is going to happen.’ Can you give me a tip on the seventh, mate? We are not down at the races now; we are talking about a budget. This is a budget that has predicted a surplus of over $1 billion. Quite clearly, even Senator Evans does not believe his own budget, and if we look at the rate of three boats per week carrying more than 600 people per month, Labor’s projected surplus will clearly vanish.
The reality is that unless the government policy is changed and an Australian permanent visa is removed the only possible outcome is that people will keep coming, our borders will be crushed—they are completely porous—and our budget will never be in surplus.
Download media release:
100617 Questions Without Notice (Take Note of Answers) – Asylum Seekers.pdf