That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (Senator Carr) to questions without notice asked today.
Since Labor abolished the Howard government’s Pacific solution we have had 12,000 people come on 241 boats, and not one single one of them has been processed offshore.
THE DEPUTY PRESIDENT:
It really is interesting. We have Senator Conroy barking from the other side. For those who can see him from here, he seems a little blurry on the outside because he is, like most members of this government, a virtual minister. He is a virtual minister who is part of a virtual government that has virtual policies. The problem, as Senator Conroy escapes out of his virtual door, is that if you have virtual policies and you do not have a consistent approach to these issues then of course you end up with a complete mess, which is what our border protection is at the moment.
We have had a number of significant changes in policy, and it is really useful to have a look at some of the Prime Minister’s statements. I can recall the time when she actually supported the turning back of boats:
The navy has turned back four boats to Indonesia. They were in sea-worthy shape and arrived in Indonesia. It has made a very big difference to people-smuggling that that happened.
She went on to say that ‘turning the boats back not only has made a significant difference’ but also ‘fits in with our policy’. More recently, in 2010, she said:
I speak of the claim often made by opposition politicians that they will, and I quote: ‘turn the boats back’. This needs to be seen for what it is. It’s a shallow slogan.
Of course, that was all a bit of a mishmash, and somebody might have mentioned that to the Prime Minister. Now she has come back to ‘virtually’ turning back the boats:
They believe they are coming to Australia, but they end up somewhere else. It is a virtual turnaround of boats.
Again, this is classically in the line of developing a virtual policy from virtual governments.
The next process was temporary protection visas. In 2002, the now Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said:
The proposal in this document—Labor’s policy—is that an unauthorised arrival who does not have a genuine refugee claim would in the first instance get a short temporary protection visa.
That’s right: today’s Prime Minister said in 2002 that her policy was temporary protection visas. But of course later, in an address to the Sydney Institute in 2010, Chris Evans said:
The Rudd government is proud of its reforms in abolishing temporary protection visas, closing the so-called Pacific Solution.
Where are they on this? They are absolutely everywhere, and this is the problem with having a virtual policy. It is a bit like watching a very old television set that is a bit broken and does not even stay on the same channel. You have a policy that goes from one channel to the other and back again, and all the channels are a little bit fuzzy.
We have been hearing recently about the so-called Malaysia solution, which of course followed the Timor solution. ‘Solution’ is a terrible word to throw around during such a debacle. Again, at a time when Prime Minister Gillard said that she would never go to a country that has not signed the refugee convention, in 2010, she said:
In terms of my plan for a regional framework and a regional processing centre, we want to deal with the countries that are signatory to the refugee convention.
She said that absolutely categorically. You could not say that was out of context. They are the people she wants to deal with. She went on later in 2010 to talk about her policy—and she said ‘my policy’, not a virtual policy—as follows:
The policy that I have announced is I want to see a regional processing centre that is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Refugees, and East Timor is a signatory.
She then went on to say, a little later, on 6PR:
I would rule out anywhere that is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention.
From the UNHCR website, if she was not familiar with it, we could have put this to the Prime Minister:
Malaysia is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its Protocol.…
By law, refugees are … vulnerable to arrest for immigration offences and may be subject to detention, prosecution, whipping and deportation.
One would think that was absolutely clear.
This is the problem when we have a virtual government with virtual ministers and virtual processes: at the end of the day, we are going to end up with a virtual border. Let me tell you: real ships with real people-smugglers ignore virtual borders, which is why this public should reject— (Time expired)
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110922 Questions Without Notice (Take Note of Answers) – Asylum seekers.pdf