Wednesday, 27 June 2012 00:00
Federal Member for Melbourne Ports
Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (16:11): Three years ago my joint migration committee unanimously advised the then government on fair conditions for the treatment of asylum seekers. We had unanimous coalition support for the fair treatment of asylum seekers and for some of the centres in which they were incarcerated. I was, and the committee was, wrong not to include offshore processing in our conclusions.
The drowning at sea of these poor people, abused by their people smuggler exploiters and by the xenophobes of talk radio has made me think again. Enough is enough! Unlike the ideologues of the Right or the Left, I believe that the majority of this parliament must face the practical situation in which we now find ourselves. We must adjust our policies to deal with these realities. We cannot stick with the blinkered policies of the past.
Mr Schultz: The Left are always right, aren't they?
Mr DANBY: If you noticed, member for Hume, I began with a mea culpa, where I said that I cannot stick with my own blinkered policies of the past.
In the last 10 years in the Senate, between 2002 and 2012, when it came to matters of national interest Labor voted 154 times with the coalition. We ask the coalition to do this once in this House in the national interest and to help prevent the further drownings of these poor people by adopting the member for Lyons's legislation. My activities in the last days, as those of many other members, have been prompted not only by my own conscience but by the courageous stand of the member for Moore, a decent man, whose ethical stance has sparked our consciences.
The member for Wentworth and others have talked about balance, and he has made some sincere references to the UNHCR and to Malaysia. Of course, he in the past, unlike so many on the other side, has made clear stances for human rights in Malaysia and has adopted the UNHCR. In research that I did for previous speeches on this topic I noticed that apart from Senator Brandis and the members for Flinders and Wentworth but almost no-one on the other side had ever quoted the UNHCR conventions on refugees prior to this debate. But they use the UNCHR and the Refugee Convention now in this debate as a cloak for not taking any action, because it is a policy suggested by the government.
Of course, there are UN conventions adopted by Cuba, Russia, Syria and even China, are never obeyed or supported by those countries and never implemented. UN conventions may be good, but they are not perfect.
What has the government done with Malaysia that should make people who are sincere supporters of human rights think that we should support this resolution of the member for Lyne that includes both suggestions of the coalition on Nauru and our suggestions on Malaysia? The minister has undertaken with the Malaysian government the right of these people to legal status, their right to employment, their right to education and their right to work. These are conditions not granted to refugees in Malaysia prior to the minister's deliberations and negotiations. This resolution is not abandoning human rights, and any of you who want to stick with Cuba and Syria over UN human rights conventions and now say that because Malaysia is not a signatory to these conventions, these arrangements are not good enough are in the wrong camp as far as human rights are concerned.
This is a regional solution, designed to stop people drowning unlike the ideological purity of the member for Melbourne and his Green political party, and I am very proud to support it. I conclude by quoting a strong critic of this government, the Australian's foreign editor, Greg Sheridan, in an article criticising the Leader of the Opposition's stance on this Malaysia option, which—he is right—is part of the suggestion by the member for Lyne in his support for the Bali declaration and his suggested legislation. The foreign editor of the Australian said that the Leader of the Opposition:
… is in danger of performing a too-clever-by-half political judo trick on himself, making sure that if he does become prime minister he will not have the legislative and administrative tools to fulfil his pledge to "stop the boats".
It is not good enough for Abbott to enjoy the government's pain.
This is a terrible mistake he is making in disarming the nation—
he is talking about Australia—
and potentially any future government he runs—in this critical policy area.
The member for Lyne has advanced a practical solution which is a compromise. Enough is enough. We practical people—and there are many decent people on the coalition side of politics—have to come to the realisation that we must combine both policies of both parties. (Time expired)
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