27 November 2023
Mr COULTON (Parkes—Chief Nationals Whip) (16:56): I too rise to speak on this issue and the Migration Amendment (Bridging Visa Conditions and Other Measures) Bill 2023. I find myself in the rather strange position where, for once, I agree with the Leader of the Greens. We’ve known each other for a long time, and we don’t agree very much, but I do agree with his point that this is rushed. If I’m agreeing with the Leader of the Greens, then clearly the government has taken a wrong turn on this one.
Government isn’t easy. The Australian people expect the government of the day to make tough decisions—not always universally popular—and to also show wisdom and foresight. We clearly have seen the minister caught napping on this issue. Sitting back waiting for the High Court decision. Then, when it didn’t go as planned, not having a plan B in place, which saw the release of those very undesirable people into the general public. I understand that some of those have basically disappeared into the populace and no-one really knows where they are.
The bigger picture on this is that it shows up the blind spot that the Labor Party have when it comes to illegal migration. No-one understands more than I the need for migrants to come to this country. No-one understands more than me the needs of people who are at risk, who have extreme stress. We’re very generous. We bring in more refugees on top of our regular migration intake, on a per capita basis, than pretty well anywhere else in the world. But there’s a reason why we need to have processes around that. I know there are frustrations at times. Where I don’t agree with the Leader of the Greens is basically—without wanting to put words in his mouth—believing we should be kinder and open the borders and allow more refugees to come through. We need to manage this because what we’ve seen is in that tide of genuine refugees is a pathway for people with serious character flaws, people of a criminal nature, to come through in the guise of refugees and then become established in Australia. That’s what’s happened. Those people had been identified. They were still in detention. The High Court decision meant that the government needed to react. They’ve been slow to react. They’re basically making this up as they go along. It was only a few hours ago these amendments were brought into the parliament, and then a decision needs to be made that is basically going to have a serious impact on the way we deal with illegal refugees, illegal comers to this country, who are not the desirable types of people that we want to have.
It’s a little bit of deja vu. One of the advantages of being around here for a long time is I can remember, in 2008, when then Prime Minister Rudd spoke about what he believed were the draconian and evil measures of the Howard government and how Australia was going to be a kinder, more welcoming nation. Within a few short years, we had 50,000 people turn up on our shores. People drowned at sea at the hands of the people-smugglers. We ended up having a huge mess to fix up. This is a classic example.
Ms Lawrence: How many by air? You’re happy with that?
Mr COULTON: Someone that’s been here for five minutes should maybe be quiet and get a bit of a history lesson here, because I’ve seen all of this before. Labor talk the talk, but they can’t walk the walk. They’ve been caught napping on this one. They’ve got an issue to fix, and they’re doing it on the run and using the house of the people in a very shoddy way.