Yesterday, regular Question Time in the House moved aside and Asylum Seekers took centre stage, from 2PM until 8PM, our elected representatives talked about refugees.
Joe Hockey, in an emotional speech, spoke out against the Asylum Seekers bill. However, he fully supported all the Howard Government actions which included shipping people off to Nauru and locking up children. Here is part of what was said, edited for clarity:
Joe Hockey (North Sydney) (19:17):
I am always reluctant to speak early in these debates. For a whole lot of personal reasons, the emotions run very deep in me in relation to refugees. The member for Kennedy said that his forebears came here in the 1870s. My father came here as a refugee on 3 September 1948. He came from a country where there was war. He had to wait his turn, but he was desperate to come here. The member for Kennedy is right: there is a great deal of hypocrisy from time to time in these debates. But I will say one thing deliberately to this parliament. I will never ever support a people swap where you can send a 13-year-old child unaccompanied to a country without supervision—never. It will be over my dead body. How dare people?
Some people say they are wrestling with their conscience. I am not; I know exactly what I want to do. The compromise that the Leader of the Opposition offered today went some way forward to offering a solution, be it Nauru, Manus Island or somewhere else. I fought with the previous Prime Minister, my Prime Minister, about Nauru. I opposed it until the moment he assured me that at all times Australians would be able to supervise the people who were sent there, that they would be protected, that they would have health care and education support—until he could assure me that those most vulnerable would be protected. That was when I agreed with him.
I was prepared to cross the floor in a previous government with an absolute majority in this place because I disagreed with the treatment of those most vulnerable by my Prime Minister. Until he assured me personally, together with the minister for immigration, that no child would ever be abandoned in another country once they had come under the guardian protection of Australia—until he assured me of that I would not support it. But he did.
This government is now asking us to support a situation where a 13-year-old child could be sent to another nation without any regard for their welfare after that moment. Even if we have words from the immigration minister about it being a case-by-case basis, it is the threat of it and from time to time the enactment of it that is the most damning thing for our conscience. That is why I feel entirely consistent. That is why I was so angry about being gagged before. I have wrestled, like many others, with their conscience on this debate but I am entirely consistent with my soul. I will sleep easy because I know from my own background and from what I have done in the past that I am going to be consistent no matter how painful it might be in the electorate, no matter how hard it might be explaining it to my constituents.
I rest easy on this because I can be entirely consistent with what beats within my soul.
BILLS Migration Legislation Amendment (The Bali Process) Bill 2012 Consideration in Detail