I rise to speak on the Migration Legislation Amendment (Offshore Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2011 that is currently being debated before the House.
I take the opportunity to associate myself with some of the earlier comments of my colleagues and particularly of the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott. This is an emotional debate and it is a sensitive debate. It is a situation in which we need to have a common sense approach.
I have been asked to reduce the time of my speech to five minutes so that we can let other members put their comments on the record. With the time available to me I want to ask us, as a parliament: how did we get here? How did we get to this point where we have such a breakdown in policy? What was motivating the decision makers? Was it pride? Was it polls? What was it? What was the motivator that continued to allow this parliament to allow lives to be lost senselessly at sea?
I do not know the answers, but I think we need to have a good look at ourselves and the way that this matter has been handled.
We are a kind and generous nation. We do our heavy lifting when it comes to taking refugees. There were comments made in this parliament by members greater than me. They said that we will decide who comes to this nation and under what circumstances they come.
With our policy decisions we were able to keep our borders protected. We were able to save lives and nearly 1,000 lives have been lost, for what measure or for what gain.
I understand the intent of the policy behind the Malaysian deal, the five-for-one swap, as trying to act as a deterrent, but it was fundamentally flawed. An expert committee, an expert panel, in the way of a High Court decision, said that that could not happen.
I raise that because throughout this debate we have been too flippant and too quick to reach out and grasp these catchcries of 'expert panels' and 'expert advice'.
Well—guess what!—it has all been wrong. Just about every piece of expert advice, other than the eminent advice that we have received of late, has been proven to be wrong. There has not been one apology; the advisers will probably actually get some promotions. As sure as anything, there may even be some more money in their budget. Ultimately, the decisions that were given to this parliament, to this government, from so-called experts to this day have proven to be wrong. The evidence I give to support that the advice was wrong is that people died.
This is an issue that Australian people want fixed. In my electorate people come up to me and say, 'You've got to stop the boats.' Those who are most passionate and emotional about trying to stop the boats are our newer Australians. There is a real emotion because they have done the right thing to get here by coming through a front door. They are proud new Australians.
Generations of farmers in my area—Germans, Scots, Italians, Vietnamese, Greeks—are the ones who are most motivated and most vocal in the community. They say to me, 'Please stop the boats,' because they saw what happened in their countries with poor immigration policy.
We hear now cries from the government that we should put politics aside in this debate. This is the parliament of Australia, and it is all about politics. Everything in this place is about politics, because that is what we do. It is all about politics, and if it was not about politics you would not have heard the comments earlier on, from our Prime Minister, that no rational person —'I put it as highly as that,' the Prime Minister said— would suggest that in 10 or 20 years we would still be processing asylum claims on Nauru. You have heard it from previous speakers, and I do not want to go down that track again, because you get the gist. But do not be so flippant as to think that it is not about politics. It is.
This is a sensitive issue. I take the opportunity in closing to thank the government for what would have been a difficult decision—to accept the recommendations from the Houston committee. With my hand on my heart I say that I hope that we have turned the corner. I take the opportunity to thank the government for moving us a positive step forward and hopefully saving some more lives.