Tonight I had a bit of a life and spent time with friends and thus I haven’t had time to write a full post on Question Time. But when I got home I had a quick squiz at the events of the day (you know, just to ensure I don’t really have a life). Here’s a summary:
The Libs, while perhaps thinking they’re on a a policy winner due to advice found from the Treasury, are now in the position of arguing in favour of mortgage exit fees. Yep, good luck with that come election time (especially when some banks are already moving to get rid of them).
Tony Burke in response to the issue of the Vic Government trucking in cattle to graze in National Parks pointed out to the House that cattle are not native animals. Apparently this is a shock to members of the National Party, whom I assume think qualification for being native is mention in a Banjo Patterson poem. No doubt they think Clancy of the Overflow will be down to help muster the cattle later on in the season.
Chris Bowen continued his fine work on Abbott’s inaction regarding Senator Bernardi, pointing out Malcolm Fraser would’ve sacked Bernardi, John Hewson would’ve sacked him, and that even Robert Menzies would’ve probably sacked him. Abbott is pretty weak when it come to admitting error – it is usually couched in some religious framework regarding absolution. But let’s not pretend Bernardi had a slip of the tongue. If Abbott wants to let anything go by due to “going too far” then basically everything is fair game, so long as the day after you say, oh sorry I didn’t realise that was too much (but you know, nudge nudge, I still think it). Keep it up Bowen.
The speaker Harry Jenkins was in a a bit of a mood. Chris Pyne was giving him the shits right from the get go, and at the hour mark he finally lost, letting forth the kind of volume usually preserved for fathers about 7 hours into the family road trip of Adelaide to the Gold Coast.
Pyne didn’t get the hint, and like the annoying little brother who keeps putting his hand over his big sister’s side of the back seat, he induced the most rambling frustrated setting out of the standing orders by Jenkins that you could ever not wish for:
(15) Mr Danby, 3:10:15 PM, to Mr S. F. Smith (Minister for Defence), Point of order, Mr Pyne, 3:10:47 PM
Dr Southcott, 3:15:59 PM, sought leave to table a document.
Member ordered to withdraw
Speaker ordered Dr Southcott, under standing order 94, to leave the Chamber for one hour for defying the Chair, and he accordingly left the Chamber, 3:16 PM,
Point of order, Mr Pyne, 3:16:37 PM
Mr Pyne, 3:19:15 PM
Mr Danby, 3:19:55 PM asked question again to the Minister for Defence.
Yep, nearly 10 minutes to go from Danby asking a question to him asking it again. Edifying ain’t it.
And that was it really. I think, despite all the umbrage and points of order, neither side was all that interested. The events in Christchurch perhaps made all realise how silly Question Time can be, but instead of attempting to redress the situation, they all just got a bit sillier. Oh well.
There was however some good stuff spoken afterwards by Ed Husic on a matter of importance: “The urgent need for leadership to reaffirm our commitment to a non-discriminatory immigration policy for Australia’s future”.
His speech contained some nice lines that those who want us to stop foreign aid and Muslim migration should think about:
Let me take the House in broad terms through the value of our exports to the following countries during 2009-2010:
• Indonesia $4bn
• Malaysia $3bn
• United Arab Emirates $2bn
• Saudi Arabia $1.5bn
• Pakistan $600m
• Bangladesh $400m
• Turkey $300m
• Jordan $150m
• Iran $150m
• Lebanon $25m
Just out of those countries, during that time, we earned a shade over $12bn in export dollars. Nations with over 50% of people who consider themselves Muslim.
Don’t forget the other $18bn we earned from countries with sizeable Muslim populations in our region – India, the Phillippines and the Russian Federation.
If we were to regress to a discriminatory immigration policy we would effectively say to those countries – we’ll take your dollars, but not your people.
Do people believe those countries would not react?
Do we think that governments in some of those nations would be mute while their local citizens ask why their governments tolerate a policy of discrimination by our government?
Let’s not only be bleeding heart about it all – there are also bloody good economic reasons as well to being open and free with peoples of Muslim background.
His words came on the back of two very excellent speeches last night by Andrew Leigh and Judy Moylan in response to Scott Morrison’s motion to limit the number of asylum seekers taken in by Australia that arrive by boat.
Leigh pointed out the furphy that boat arrivals who are granted protection visa are taking places from others:
In his motion today the member for Cook continued his efforts to make political capital out of the Australian refugee program. Yet, like the coalition’s election costings, his efforts are riddled with errors. The motion conflates the refugee and special humanitarian components of the humanitarian program, which are effectively quarantined from each other in terms of the number of visas granted and the priority accorded to processing them.
The motion erroneously suggests that Australia has rejected women at risk because irregular maritime arrivals have crowded them out, a mistake repeated by the member for Cook in his media release last November. This is not the case. The number of places available for refugees overseas is not affected by the number of protection visas granted to onshore applicants, and that includes irregular maritime arrivals.
He ended with this excellent passage:
I was asked this morning by a journalist who I greatly respect, ‘Why are you bringing this up today?’ It is a good question so, in closing, let me try to answer why I do not think we should merely let the issue drop.
When Pauline Hanson brought her extremist ideology onto the floor of this parliament in the late 1990s, some people said ‘Just ignore it and it’ll go away.’ They meant well but, as the subsequent rise of One Nation showed, they were grievously mistaken. Sometimes you just have to draw a line in the sand. Here is mine.
If there is someone attacking a religion, that matters to me—even if it is not my religion. If there is someone suggesting that asylum seekers are a threat to our way of life, that matters to me—even if I am not an asylum seeker. And if there is a father who wants to attend the funeral of his child, that matters to me—even if it is not my child.
The first Liberal Party member other than Morrison to speak on the motion was Judy Moylan – and she spoke against it. Well done I say. She also had very good things to say. I repeat them here in length:
The real deficiency, though, of the current system is that in 1996, by a deliberate decision of the government, the number of onshore protection visas and the number of visas available under the Special Humanitarian Program were linked, so there is now a shortfall of places for special humanitarian visas. However, this motion intimates that somehow onshore applicants are less entitled to and less worthy of permanent protection than offshore applicants. It seeks to allot 3,750 visas to onshore applicants, or 787 fewer visas than the number granted to onshore applicants in 2009-10. This presupposes that asylum seekers would again be held in indefinite detention, or that temporary protection visas would be reinstated.
This would create the situation which in the past prolonged the pain and prevented the resettlement of asylum seekers. Apart from the obvious human trauma this policy engendered, it was administratively demanding and costly. The logical solution would be to delink the two programs and to allocate specific numbers for each of those programs. The fact is that once an asylum seeker reaches our shores we have a legal, social and moral obligation to assess the claim and then provide asylum. This obligation must be separated from our voluntary commitment to offshore resettlement programs.
The contention that temporary protection visas and mandatory detention will in some way stop the boats is not supported by history. Mandatory detention was introduced as a deterrent by the Labor government in 1992, when a small number of people arrived by boat. Ten years later, there had been 5,000 boat arrivals. In the five years prior to temporary protection visas being introduced, there were 3,103 boat arrivals. In the five years following the introduction of temporary protection visas, there were over 11,000 arrivals.
If we are serious about stemming the flow of refugees, we must desist from punitive policies and join with our regional neighbours and the international community to prevent the tyranny, genocide and war which cause people to flee from their homelands. We must prepare to share the burden of those who come to the region seeking asylum. After all, few people would choose to leave their home and make such a perilous journey without good cause.
Good words, well said. I am sure many Liberal Party supporters were proud they were spoken by one on their side. They should be.