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Motion regarding Christmas Island and SIEV221

9th February 2011

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia)

(4.38 pm)-I move:
That the Senate-
(a) notes the tragic events surrounding Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel 221, which saw the drowning of 30 asylum seekers off the coast of Christmas Island on 15 December 2010;

(b) recognises the impact that this tragedy has had on the community as a whole and, in particular, the community of Christmas Island; and

(c) expresses sympathy and conveys its condolences to the friends and family in Australia and abroad of those who lost their lives.

Mr President, I seek leave to make a short statement.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Leave is granted for two minutes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG-I note that this motion is in relation to the tragedy off the coast of Christmas Island the week before Christmas where at least 30 people died and 42 people were rescued. Of course, we do not know the final number of people who perished as part of that incident. The reports are that upwards of 60 people could have died.

I also note that, while importantly and deservedly yesterday we had a lot of time in this chamber put aside for condolences on the natural disasters and the death of an Australian soldier in Afghanistan, it would have been a good idea for the government to schedule some time for us to move an official condolence motion
on this tragedy as well.

I find it disappointing that the government did not. I hope that all sides of the chamber will support this motion but I would like it noted that I think a formal condolence motion included in yesterday's list would have been appropriate.

Senator LUDWIG (Queensland-Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (4.40 pm)-I seek leave to make a short statement.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Leave is granted for two minutes.

Senator LUDWIG-The government supports this motion. I rise today to acknowledge the terrible tragedy that occurred on 15 December last year when the vessel known as SIEV221 succumbed to very rough seas and sank just off the coast of Christmas Island. At least 30 people died that day, along with an unknown number who are missing and presumed dead. Remarkably, and owing to the bravery of the Border Protection Command and Christmas Island residents themselves, 42 people survived the wreck-41 who were rescued from the water and one man who managed to swim ashore. Today, with great sadness and respect, we acknowledge the men, women and children who lost their lives in this tragic accident, express our sincere sympathy and condolences to their families and friends and pay tribute to the courageous men and women who assisted with the rescue efforts. I thank the Senate.

Senator CASH (Western Australia) (4.41 pm)-I seek leave to make a short statement.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Leave is granted for two minutes.

Senator CASH-The opposition too supports this motion. What occurred off the coast of Christmas Island on 15 December 2010 was a human tragedy. However, as we reflect on the loss of life it is also incumbent upon us as legislators to ask why it occurred and what these people actually died for. Unfortunately, we do know what the answer to that question is. They died for a shipwrecked promise sold by people smugglers. On that point we need to be very clear. The people who sent these poor souls to their death were criminal people smugglers and we should be doing what is within our power to end this evil trade.

SIEV221 was the 200th boat to arrive in Australian waters after the Labor government, under the guise of compassion, began unravelling the tough border protection measures it inherited from the previous government in August 2008. When Labor came to government only four unauthorised boat people were in detention and there had been only 10 boats in six years.

There are now more than 7,000 people from unlawful boat arrivals in Australia's overstretched and unsustainable detention network and more than 1,000 children
are included in that number. As well as those who died on SIEV221, there have been well-founded reports of a further 170 deaths of people trying to reach Australia over the open sea since August 2008.

People smugglers must be denied a product to sell, which will stop people from getting on the boats. Until the government admits to its failures, we will continue
to count the costs. We mourn those who perished that fateful day and we are ever thankful that lives were saved. Our greatest hope is that we do not have to stand here in this place to mourn again.

Question agreed to.



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