Hon Judi Moylan

Migration Legislation Amendment (The Bali Process) Bill 2012 - Speech

Mrs MOYLAN (Pearce) (18:27): This morning, over 50 members of this parliament met here with a genuine desire to explore a way forward to break the stalemate that has prevented this parliament from agreeing to legislation to improve the way we manage our responses and our responsibilities to asylum seekers who make the risky journey here by sea to find a safe haven. I would like to thank those members and particularly the member for New England and the others in this place who facilitated the meeting this morning and for the good will in which they went about that.

There was considerable good will in that meeting. The meeting agreed to a joint communique to the coalition leader, the Prime Minister, the leader of the Greens and all the Independents in this place. We hoped that the communique would move the leaders in this place and in the Senate to come together to forge an agreement that could be supported by this parliament—by this place and by the Senate. If we cannot forge that kind of agreement then this matter is not going to be resolved and we are going to see more people needlessly die. Soon after we emerged from that meeting the news came through that another boat had capsized, that a rescue operation was underway and that some lives had been lost. At the centre of what we wanted to achieve was the protection of human dignity and human life. I do not think anyone in this place disagrees with that proposition. The Australian people have an expectation that we will take responsibility for managing the borders of our country, because it does cause fear and that has to be acknowledged. Governments have a responsibility to take measures to protect our borders. But that is not mutually exclusive to us finding a way to manage the asylum seekers who reach our shores and the asylum seekers who are coming to our Asian region being dealt with humanely and decently.

It is clearly evident that if we continue to go along the way we are—the government came in after our meeting and proposed to put what is known as 'the Oakeshott bill', which is basically just returning to the Malaysian solution—we know that the Greens party cannot support that. I have spoken out against that in this place previously. I cannot support it. I cannot support it because I do not believe that it is a durable way forward. It is only a bandaid approach and we have to stop governing in this country on this matter of great import by using bandaids or, as someone said in the meeting this morning, bumper sticker slogans. We just cannot keep doing that.

We looked at the amendments that have been put forward by the opposition, and they do not sit terribly well with me. I know they do not sit well with everyone, but we are not going to find a perfect solution to this; we are just not. We are not dealing with perfect conditions, so we have to make some compromises somewhere along the way. But I think it is far better to send people to countries who are signatories to the United Nations convention on refugees and to have some other safeguards. So with goodwill I have tried most of this day to negotiate with colleagues in this place to support the opposition's amendments and to put into place some other safeguards around those. I do not wish to take up the rest of my time— (Extension of time granted)

This will be important progress if we can as a parliament come to an agreement to accept the opposition amendment to have processing done only by countries that are signatories to the convention, along with these other measures, which are that we increase the number of asylum seekers we take. That does have to be managed, because they have to be resettled in this country, but it deals with some of the push factors. What is happening is that people are sitting in Malaysia, Indonesia and other places and they know that they are not going to get an opportunity to be resettled within years. So of course they are going to negotiate with people smugglers so that they can get on with their lives. These people also live with the fear of being returned to countries like Afghanistan and almost certain death for some of them.

That is why we worked with the Greens and other members today to try and come up with these amendments. The Leader of the Opposition entered into these negotiations in good faith. Other amendments were that there be a time limit on the processing of asylum seekers in those countries that have centres, because that is another push factor; that we would have those assessment centres endorsed by the UNHCR if, of course, they are agreeable—these things have to be properly discussed and negotiated; that there be a benchmark of 12 months maximum for assessing asylum seeker claims—again, this is another push factor; and that we would establish a multiparty working group to work through some of the myriad complex issues.

This is not a simple matter; this is a very complex matter that we are dealing with. We have a lot of wisdom in this parliament on these benches. As the member for New England, Tony Windsor, said, 'Let's stop being politicians just for a day and be parliamentarians.' There is a lot of goodwill; there is a lot of knowledge, and we can draw on incredible knowledge within our country on these issues as well. So I and, I know others, would like to see a multiparty committee set up to look at some of the more complex aspects of this whole immigration policy.

I implore members of goodwill in this parliament tonight to work together so that we can pass the opposition amendments to this bill. I think the public expect that we will be responsible and that we will try to work through these matters with goodwill. At the heart of this is a genuine attempt and a commitment to safeguard some very vulnerable people that we all want to see resettled, so this has been negotiated with good faith today. I am sorry that I have not been able to be more successful with some of my colleagues, but I will not stop trying. I do not have that long in this place, but I will continue to give it my best shot because I know many of us feel so deeply. As my colleague Scott Morrison, the shadow minister, said, he has heard some of the best speeches we have had in this debate tonight. I would implore us to come together to move forward and not to move backwards on this and not to support a piece of legislation in this place that will not get support in the other place. Let's give this matter the best chance to move forward and get a piece of legislation that the whole of this parliament can agree to today.

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