Yesterday, in the Senate, Asylum Seekers took centre stage.
Eric Abetz main concern was not with people dying, but having to see images of people dying on our televisions. And yes, he did use the phrase “our black African refugee brothers and sisters”, probably for the first time ever in his life.
Here is part of what was said, edited for clarity:
Senator ABETZ (Tasmania—Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (09:56):
The tragic loss of life at sea occasioned by the behaviour of corrupt, unprincipled people smugglers has been broadcast into our living rooms in what can only be described as very confronting TV footage. It is clear that these tragedies have led to this flurry of legislative activity which has seen the coalition cooperate with the government to bring the Migration Legislation Amendment (The Bali Process) Bill 2012 on for immediate debate.
But first some history: when the coalition was confronted with an influx of illegal arrivals, we took decisive action, action that worked. Why did we take that action? Because, as a coalition, we fully support refugee intake into Australia. The figure of 13,700, as the Leader of the Government in the Senate indicated, is, by world standards, per capita a very generous figure. What is more, it is not only in the raw numbers of the intake where Australia has been generous; it has also been exceptionally generous in the services provided to assist those people to resettle.
The issue that confronted the Howard government was: to whom should we as a nation give priority? Should we give priority to those that deliberately bypass safe haven after safe haven after safe haven to get a resettlement opportunity that they want, having destroyed their papers on the way and having engaged criminals to assist them, or should we give priority to those who have languished in refugee camps for year after year, for well over a decade? You can talk especially to our black African refugee brothers and sisters who have had that experience. They have waited sometimes for 15 years or more for resettlement. The question therefore is: to whom should we give priority? Should we give priority to those who do not have the financial wherewithal, those who went to the immediate first safe haven available, or should we give priority to those who have the financial capacity to buy their way into Australia, courtesy of the assistance of criminals?
BILLS Migration Legislation Amendment (The Bali Process) Bill 2012 Second Reading