Senator SCULLION (Northern Territory) (3:13 PM) —I should not be surprised by the response from those opposite on the issue of asylum seekers. Can you imagine them in a boat where there is water coming in through the corking? All they will do is hand out life jackets. All they seem to do is try to deal with the consequence of their failed policies. Australia is dealing with this policy failure that is ensuring people put their lives and the lives of their families at risk. They are ensuring the livelihoods of those people whose primary business role is to traffic in human misery. They are doing all right out of it—there are no worries about that. They are reading the brochures that say, ‘Come to Australia because we now have changed our policies.’ These guys opposite say, ‘The only issue with our policy is that we don’t have enough places to put them.’ What they are focusing on is: ‘Can we make Darwin bigger? We always knew they were going to go to Darwin.’ The only issue we are going to see from the other side is where we open up more detention facilities, because those on the other side are completely incapable of understanding that this is about policy and not about detention.
When the Howard government was in government we acknowledge that we went through this process. We had an increase in boats and we changed our policies. We said, ‘We are going to introduce some tough policies that send a clear message that if you are a refugee then you can go into any of the embassies on the way to coming here and seek asylum.’ We put in place processes to assist them with that. We started with a very large number of boats. I can recall that when I first came here, in 2001, we had 19 boats. The next year we had zero. The next year we had three. The next year we had zero. This is what happens.
So I would commend looking at a bit of history to the other side. Change your policies to make those policies disincentives and the people and the boats will stop coming. You have to put your eye on the right ball. You cannot just decide that your only policy response is to go and build bigger facilities. They talked about the Darwin detention facility. I had a little bit to do with that. There was a little bit of tension at the time that it was built. I was assured that this was a facility that was designed and built as a short-term processing facility for those people who came to Australian waters to engage in illegal fishing. That is was it was purposely built for. The level of security was up to exactly that stage.
I had someone ring me the other day who said, ‘When this opens up, Nigel, are those people who blew that SIEV up going to come here?’ I said, ‘Why are you concerned?’ He said, ‘Don’t you remember reading in the paper how they all walked out, went and had lunch or something, decided that it was all too hard and came back for supper?’ I said: ‘Oh, yeah. Well, I’m not really sure what they’ve done with the security.’ I said that I was sure that it would be all right.
This is complete and utter bungling. If they do not change their policy approach to this, we are going to see increasing numbers of vessels arriving in the future. I acknowledge that this is only a newspaper article, but this newspaper article from today and other media indicate that there may well be quite large numbers of people coming on a couple of boats. Darwin only has the capacity for 550, and that is if you include the surge capacity, which takes it up to 547. If any of these reports are correct—and they are going to be correct, because giving them a 30-day processing visa means that immediately they only have to wait 30 days to get to Australia, which is the outcome that they want and why they are coming—the process has to change. We are going to have more and more people and we are going to be wondering where to put them. But where to put them is not the problem. The sugar is the problem, as the Indonesians would tell us. We have policies that invite people to come to Australia.
It does not seem to matter what program we have—whether it is the ETS, the NBN, insulation, the tragedy of the SIHIP program in Indigenous housing, the Julia Gillard memorial halls program—all of them have been run with ineptitude. On every level, it is embarrassing internationally that every single program that those opposite have decided that they are going to put in place as one of their policies has failed miserably. They have not got the grunt to be able to manage these programs. Border protection, sadly, just grows on the line. We are now expecting another influx of people and all those in the Labor Party can do is flail around and say, ‘My God, I wonder where we’re going to put these poor souls.’ They had better find more and more accommodation, because without a change in policy the people and the boats will keep coming.
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100316 Questions Without Notice (Take Note of Answers) – Asylum Seekers.pdf