Coulton’s Catchup 6th August
The issue of border protection and asylum seekers has been the hot topic of the last month and rightly so. However, the crisis on our borders has been unfolding for years, not weeks, and throughout this entire time the Government has refused to restore the measures that were previously effective. The Government has been continually warned of the dangers of their lack of action and the cost, chaos and tragedy that would and has resulted. And yet the boats keep coming.
When the Coalition introduced their border protection policies by end of 2001, namely, offshore processing at Nauru and later Manus Island, temporary protection visas and turning back boats where it is safe to do so, the people smuggling trade was broken. In the three years prior to the introduction of these measures 12,176 people turned up on 180 boats. In the six years after the measures were introduced, 272 people turned up on 16 boats.
Since the Rudd/Gillard Government abolished these proven measures in 2008, more than 20,000 people have turned up on more than 340 boats. Australians do not want to see people, whether they are adults or children, take their lives in their own hands at sea to travel here with the help of people smugglers and that is why the Prime Minister needs to implement policy that has worked and will work.
The current deadlock in our Parliament centres on the Government’s insistence to remove binding legal protections for human rights for people processed offshore, to implement their abominable Malaysian people swap. The Malaysian people swap is ill conceived to say the least and violates basic standards that we believe should be in place.
In an effort to achieve consensus the Coalition agreed in the last sitting week of Parliament in June to commit to increasing our refugee and humanitarian intake to 20,000 annually within three years and provide an additional $10 million to the UNHCR to assist its processing of claims of asylum seekers in Malaysia and Indonesia, in a bid to secure support for our amendments and break the deadlock. This offer was rejected by the Government, the Greens, Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor.
In rejecting this significant offer, to achieve good and strong laws, the Government, Independents and Greens voted for deadlock. The Prime Minister insisted on 100% of nothing, rather than achieving 50% of something. The Government’s latest response to contract out the Prime Ministership to yet another committee, rather than take the decisions that are available to the Government today is just another sign of the dysfunction of this Government.
The Minister for Immigration’s own figures confirm that thousands of people waiting offshore for Australia’s protection, in typically far more desperate circumstances, are missing out because Labor’s asylum and border protection policies are being held hostage to people smugglers. In 2010, the number of offshore places was reduced by more than 2,000 to make way for boat arrivals that were granted permanent protection visas. The majority of the balance of the program was taken up by family members of those arrivals. Over 6,000 people have already arrived this year by boat, compared with 4,730 arrivals for the whole of 2011, proving this year will be enormously lucrative for people smugglers who are not going to be deterred until they see some real action from this Government.