Claire Moore (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) 3.09pm
We have had maybe four governments of rhetoric from Senator McGauran, and I think we should acknowledge that. One of the most alarming things in today’s questions was the desperate, ongoing attempt to make political mileage out of a very sad situation—running the consistent line about special deals, which has been picked up by the media. As Senator McGauran says, there has been media coverage of this extraordinarily difficult and most distressing situation.
But the government has been very clear and very open about the process that has occurred. As we have heard, there is a full public document about what was discussed with the people onboard the particular vessel, plus the ongoing negotiations with the Indonesian government. The minister replied extremely patiently to the continuing questions of yesterday and today, pointing out the clear facts: this vessel was in Indonesian waters and the Australian government came in to support the vessel, but at the request of the Indonesian government the process has gone on with the Indonesian government to ensure that there is respect given to the people on board. It is most important to treat the people with respect, referring to them as people who are seeking asylum—not, as we heard in the rhetoric of some of the questions today, yet again, the awful term ‘illegals’. We are talking about asylum seekers.
The processing will be done most clearly under the UNHCR rules—there is no doubt about that. We are working with the UNHCR, which is the international body that looks after people seeking asylum and looking to be considered as refugees in the international focus. What we consistently forget in the debates that have been forcibly imposed in this area over many years is that people moving and seeking asylum across our globe is an international issue. It is not peculiar to Australia. It is not peculiar to the Pacific. It is a problem that the world must acknowledge. As the result of a range of horrific circumstances across our globe, people are trying to move to seek new lives. Some of those people will be assessed under the UNHCR processes to be genuine refugees. Some will not. We must make that process, to which we as a government are signatories, clear. That will now be enforced. As with the document that was made public yesterday, all actions will be made public in this process. Every time a boat is seen or a process is undertaken on this issue, what we do will be made public, will be available to the world.
It is so distressing when we hear allegations that there are more boats. Look at the records. Look at the numbers. As people seek asylum in this area, we will have people who are desperate enough to come on boats. The saddest thing—in fact, the most offensive thing—is the allegation that we are supporting people-smugglers. That is wrong. That is actually quite a dangerous thing to say. It also means that people are not listening effectively to process. We can talk about the budget, and that will be put forward. We can talk about the international relations and processes that have been moved forward by our government. We can talk about the processes that are being put in place to ensure clear understanding, for any individual who is trying to move from their home to seek refuge in another place. That is all part of government policy. We are not moving from that. To have people using the sanctity of this chamber to make allegations that there is any softness on people-smuggling by our government is false, misleading and dangerous. What we must do is to seek solutions for people who are desperate, understand their desperation and make sure that there are clear assessment processes which are understood and from which there is no deviation in terms of what constitutes a refugee. Most importantly, we must maintain respect for those involved.