Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Home Affairs, Minister for Justice and Minister for Defence Materiel) (14:58): I was sworn in as the Minister for Home Affairs and the Minister for Justice on 14 December last year. Four days later, I had the responsibility to advise the Australian people that a boat had capsized off the coast of Indonesia and that potentially up to 200 people had perished. Last week, I had to do that again. Today, we face the awful prospect that more people have died.
I believe that Australia has had a gutful of us fighting on this issue. They are sick of us fighting, they are sick of the politics, they are sick of hearing of more people dying, they are sick of us yelling at each other and they just want us to fix this. Both of us, both Labor and Liberal, believe that the best way to stop people dying at sea is offshore processing. We strongly believe that Malaysia is the best way to do that. The opposition strongly believes that Nauru is the best way to do that. We both believe in offshore processing. The people in the gallery, the people listening on radio and the people across this country scratch their heads and ask, ‘If both of the major parties agree that this is the way to do it, why can’t they sit down and fix it?’
It is incumbent on all of us at this time to remember what this debate is all about. In the last 12 months more than 300 people have drowned. On 15 December 2010, 50 people died off Christmas Island. On 1 November 2011, eight people drowned off Indonesia. On 17 December last year, 200 people drowned off the coast of Indonesia; 100 were subsequently washed up onto the beaches of Java, and 100 more still lie at the bottom of the Java Sea. On 1 February, 11 people drowned off the coast of Malaysia. Last week another 90 drowned—and now there is today.
Stopping this horror is within our grasp. But it requires legislation, so it requires all of us to work together. That means being willing to give a bit. It means being willing to compromise—to give a bit of ground to save lives—and to do what Labor and Liberal MPs did a decade ago after Tampaand after September 11, when we worked together to pass difficult immigration and national security legislation in this place. That is what the people of Australia expect of us now. That is what they are imploring us to do right now.
There are good people in this place on both sides of the chamber. There are people who want to do this. They want to pass this legislation today, and they want to reach an agreement to stop people drowning at sea. That is what we have the opportunity to do right now. To do that we have offered to establish a processing centre in Nauru. We have offered to implement the opposition’s preferred location for offshore processing. We have offered to increase UN involvement in Malaysia. We have offered an independent review of temporary protection visas.
I ask members: remember Tampa; remember September 11. On both occasions the Liberal government came into this place and asked for special powers to deal with a crisis to save lives. The opposition—a Labor opposition—supported them. That is what we need to do now. We all support offshore processing. We support Malaysia; the opposition supports Nauru. Let’s do both. As the Prime Minister said, ‘The eyes of the nation are upon us.’ While we keep fighting, more people will drown. Stopping this is within our grasp. We can vote for this legislation right now. I say to all members: it should not take another 300 people to drown for us to pass this legislation.