Home - Claire Moore - Labor Senator for Queensland

Asylum Seekers

Throughout the time that I have been in this place the issue of asylum seekers has continued to be important in debate in the process. We on this side of the chamber consistently stressed, when we were both in opposition and in government, the need to look at the issue in terms of compassion and the desperation of the people who were caught up in the horror of seeking asylum. What we have had today in the original contribution by Senator Cash is a return to the kind of debate which has haunted this place consistently for this whole time, to turn it into an attack on the government, to turn it into an attack on process and to begin a contribution by using the term 'arrogance'. It is unbelievable at this time when our government has worked through an extraordinarily difficulty process looking at thousands of people in need who are seeking aid and working through the Houston inquiry report and the process that came back to this chamber. I actually stress that anyone who has read the Houston inquiry report and who has actually seen the numerous pieces of evidence gathered by the trio of people who worked on that inquiry-Air Chief Marshal Houston, Mr Aristotle and Professor L'Estrange-would know that at no time did they ever link the recommendations that they made to this government to what was known as the Pacific solution. It was not this government that said that the recommendations should not be what was put forward by the Pacific solution. It was not our government that said that. It was in fact the Houston inquiry that said that. They drew clear differentiation between what was happening in the past and what their recommendations said, and our government admitted that we would come back into this place and implement what was said in the Houston inquiry report.

Certainly, offshore processing is a key factor. It is a very difficult thing for people to accept when we have actually worked to try to look at alternatives over many years but, yes, offshore processing is where we are now. But it is not the Pacific solution. As we have heard consistently, putting through the full suite of what was in place before is not the intent or the policy of this government. The transparency that will now be put on the process was never in evidence in the Pacific solution. The process of actually stopping people looking at claims into the future and stopping looking at legal alternatives were never part of the Pacific solution. In fact, the way that the previous government operated-which we debated many times in this place-had no way of looking at the deep need of those who were seeking asylum.

There is no doubt that the core aspect must be to break the people-smuggling trade. That is the greatest challenge that we have. The desperation of the people who take to those boats is admitted across the board. I shudder to think of the way that people continue to use the loss of life through drowning as a political argument and yet it consistently comes up. In fact, in this place it has been said at times that the tremendous awful-and I use that word in its true sense-loss of life that has occurred over many years through people-smuggling did not appear suddenly when there was a change of government. To our shame, people were lost many times. We will never know the numbers of people who have been lost, but now we are looking at a way of trying-and we are really emphasising the verb 'trying'-to find ways using a range of alternatives. And again I draw people's attention to reading the whole of the Houston inquiry report to look at all the recommendations and to see the range of options that are going to be considered, one of which is the process on Manus Island and Nauru. It is only one element of the process. In fact, the commitment is to look at all the recommendations as a suite. It has been constantly stated that you cannot just choose elements of the recommendations; you need to look at all the processes and ensure that they work together.

We will continue to look at the issue of asylum seekers and to work to ensure that people are treated with respect and to ensure that they will not have an incentive to take the decision to go onto dangerous boats and to leave their place of refuge and face an unknown future. That will need the commitment of all people in this parliament. Unfortunately, even as we move and have legislation agreed, there continues to need to be this debate about what happened in the past and why we have not gone back to what happened in the past. (Time expired)