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.
Tony Windsor, the voice of reason, during a highly politicised discussion. Here is part of what was said, edited for clarity:
Tony Windsor (New England) (17:16):
I would like to speak briefly to the proposals that are before the parliament today. This has been a very interesting day for our parliament. I would just like to thank those people from across the political spectrum who took the time earlier today to come together and sit down and discuss this issue with a view to further discussions at a later time.
This is not the way in which I thought the day would unfold—not that I dictate the way days unfold—but it has put people in very difficult positions. There is urgency, there is no doubt about that.
Obviously the boat that capsized today has brought both sides to the table to promote their agendas, but the thing that disappoints me a little bit is that there is still the smell of politics hanging over today’s proceedings. I wonder if the boat had not capsized whether we would be in here or whether we would have gone into a slightly broader process in coming to some sort of consensus. But I thank the more than 40 MPs who came this morning, particularly those whose ideas probably were not welcomed by their own sides of politics, including the member for Moore, the member for Pearce, the member for Riverina and the member for O’Connor.
The contribution that some of those people and others have made in the past few days in particular is noteworthy, including Steve Georganas and Rob Oakeshott. There is no doubt that has been a contributing pressure factor, but obviously the recent capsizing of another boat has compounded upon that and hence we have gone into the fairly rushed debate today.
What is coming through loud and clear to me is that no solution is going to be perfect. I see people obviously wrestling with their own consciences in relation to how they try to deal with this. There are demands in the community for it to be dealt with in some way. There are political positions that are being taken by various groups and, in the main, I respect those positions. There has also been the political positioning taken by some that has delayed outcomes in the past and delayed constructive debate across the political spectrum to find solutions. If the amendment gets up today we still have a process that is not perfect; if the Oakeshott bill gets up, it is not perfect either.
Whether either of these things gets up, and one will most probably, it is important to say—and this is where I agree with Andrew Wilkie’s proposal—that regardless of what happens today we do need to review the outcome of the process. It would be well worthwhile to have a group of parliamentarians—it may be a group similar to this morning, or another group altogether; I am not trying to dictate the terms of that—from across the political spectrum work on the longer term processes that may be required. In listening to members today, and irrespective of which one of these two options gets through the lower House—and then there is the debate as to whether it gets through the Senate—I think there is still a lot of work to be done.
So I encourage the bipartisanship that has been displayed—genuine concern about genuine issues—and propose that we take it beyond today and try to improve on whatever outcome comes through the parliament in the next hour or so.
BILLS Migration Legislation Amendment (The Bali Process) Bill 2012 Consideration in Detail