MP in Australia on Sri Lanka

While travelling around the Canning electorate over the past month I have listened to many community members who are disappointed and disheartened by the current state of the Federal Parliament.

This widespread and passionate reaction to what has become a highly dysfunctional Parliament is understandable and I have heard the message from the electorate loud and clear. No-one is innocent in this respect – each Parliamentarian is culpable and must shoulder some of the blame, however I feel it is important to explain how we have arrived at this regrettable place in Australian politics. The Coalition’s endeavours to take the fight to Labor in terms of their broken promises, economic mismanagement, excessive spending and misplaced priorities has led to attacks ranging from ‘constant negativity’ to the new frenzied assault on Tony Abbott, with a misguided attempt to label him a sexist and misogynist. This sad, desperate attack needs to be seen for what it is – a shift in tactic by the Prime Minister and the Labor Party to undertake personal attacks, given that their unpopular and ill-conceived policies have been found wanting by the Australian people. Prime Minister Gillard and her senior colleagues would be wise to observe the recent electoral result in Queensland, where the Labor Party was virtually destroyed after engaging in inaccurate, unsubstantiated and deeply offensive personal attacks on Campbell Newman and his family.

 The sleaze and scandal that has overtaken the 43rd Parliament has understandably eroded Australians faith in our political system and this is a trend that must be reversed. The ongoing sagas regarding the now independent Member and former Speaker of the House Peter Slipper and ex-Labor MP Craig Thomson continue to taint the Gillard Labor government. Equally concerning however, is the extent of the desperation that has been displayed by the government in attempting to protect these two men, whose position in the Parliament has now become untenable. A Senate Committee was told this week the Labor government engaged 17 lawyers and spent nearly $750,000 to try and cover up details surrounding Mr Slipper’s sexual harassment case. This, along with the eventual payment of $50,000 to the accuser James Ashby, was paid for by the Australian taxpayer and it is simply scandalous that such vast resources were used to try and protect one vote for the Gillard Labor government in the House of Representatives. After weeks of trying to keep such details suppressed, it has also been revealed that Attorney-General Nicola Roxon knew of Mr Slipper’s vile text messages many months ago and well before she herself made the unprecedented move of publicly stating Mr Ashby’s sexual harassment allegations against Mr Slipper were ‘vexatious’ and ‘an abuse of process’. One wonders if such a slanderous statement would have been made if Mr Ashby was a female member of staff making similar allegations. Of course the irony of this situation is on the one hand, the Gillard Labor government has gone to great lengths to hide the details of Mr Slipper’s deeply misogynist text messages and meanwhile they have launched a vicious and baseless attack on the Coalition and Tony Abbott for allegedly being sexist. The level of inconsistency is absurd and exposes the Labor government’s dirty tactics for what they are.

 Meanwhile, Craig Thomson continues to sit in the Parliament as an independent Member, yet continues to support the government, who have spent vast amounts of money protecting him from equally scandalous allegations pertaining to union money funds being spent on personal items, including travel, fine dining and prostitutes. After many years of exhaustive investigation, the Health Services Union only this week initiated legal action against the former Labor Member and criminal charges may be laid in the coming months. Again, the handbag hit-squad who have mercilessly attacked Tony Abbott for misogyny felt no need to condemn a man who is accused of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of low paid union members’ dues on sexual services. Exactly how Labor Members can maintain this line of attack and keep a straight face is a mystery to me.

 Personal attacks against the Leader of the Opposition and the Coalition are evidence of a government who are out of ideas. In the same way Anna Bligh’s Labor government attacked Campbell Newman, this tactic will backfire on the Gillard government as voters see through transparent, unfounded allegations against his character. It is clear that this will be Labor’s last desperate attempt to salvage some support in the lead up to the next federal election. If, as it seems, Labor is so devoid of ideas and inspiration as to resort to baseless character attacks, I believe it is in all Australian’s best interests that the Prime Minister pick up the phone to the Governor General and call an early general election. Only an election will restore sound, responsible and ethical governance to Australia and only evidence of sound, responsible and ethical governance will restore Australian’s faith in our political system. The Coalition stands ready to reinstate hope, reward and opportunity to all Australians – something that has deteriorated in recent years under a Labor government. (Please see attachment)

 Recently I was honoured to visit Sri Lanka on a Parliamentary study trip, during which I met with several high ranking Parliamentarians including the President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Secretary Defence and Urban Development Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Minister for Economic Development, Basil Rajapaksa and the Sri Lankan Navy’s Deputy Commander, Commodore P.S. De Silva. I was fortunate to be able to visit the SLN Naval Dockyard in Trincomalee Harbour, from which most people smuggling boats depart from, destined for Australia. The Sri Lankan Navy is doing an outstanding job of returning these boats to where they departed and we should expect similar assistance from Indonesia. I received a fascinating briefing from senior Navy Officers during which I was able to meet and speak with Sri Lankans who had been intercepted by the Navy on their way to Australia. I spoke with dozens of attempted asylum seekers who spoke very frankly with me about their circumstances and reasons for travelling to Australia. I was astounded to hear story after story of individuals who were not escaping persecution or threat of violence in Sri Lanka, but rather were keen to get to Australia to attain a higher paying job. After many hours speaking with numerous Sri Lankans, I was left in no doubt that those attempting to make the dangerous journey to Australia were not genuine asylum seekers but in fact economic refugees who were simply trying (understandably) to reach our lucky country.

 Inspecting hiding places on intercepted people smuggling boats in Sri Lanka.

 I admire and love Sri Lanka and the beauty of both the country and the people that make it such a special place. I also understand why Sri Lankans would try and take advantage of our current weak migration policies and forge a better life for themselves and their families in Australia, a rich a prosperous land of immense opportunity. However we must not forget that Australia’s asylum seeker program is designed to provide refuge for the most vulnerable, the most persecuted, the most alienated and defenceless refugees across the world. While Australia maintains a broken system that offers limited asylum seeker placements to those who can afford to pay a people smuggler many thousands of dollars we will deny an opportunity to those who desperately and genuinely require our assistance. Illegal arrivals continue to arrive in Australia in increasing numbers. Here are some frightening numbers that demonstrate Labor’s inability to handle their responsibility to secure Australia’s borders; Last weekend alone, we witnessed 500 arrivals. This Monday, four boats arrived carrying over 300 people. Since announcing the reopening of Nauru just two months ago, 70 boats have arrived carrying more than 4,600 people. Since Labor won the 2007 election, we have seen 27,192 arrivals. To allow this to continue is a travesty and the Coalition continues to call on the Gillard Labor government to end this farce once and for all, swallow what little political pride is left to swallow and implement the full suite of policies that were so effective under the Howard government. Only a Coalition government can restore integrity back to our migration system. Please find attached a copy of a speech I delivered in Parliament following my visit, as well as two stories from the Daily Telegraph.

 Away from federal politics, I thought many of you would like to know that we are looking at a somewhat more satisfactory outcome in relation to the recent assault (referred to in the last E-News) on ‘Wally’ – a 73 year old Camillo resident subjected to a ruthless baseball bat attack by repeat offender Robert Collard. Following many submissions to the Director of Public Prosecutions by readers of these E-News updates, the DPP announced on September 12, that they would be lodging an appeal against the totally inadequate three year sentence handed to Mr Collard. While this will take some time to work through the legal system, it was a great example of how public outcry against injustices such as this can in fact lead to an appropriate outcome for victims of crime. I will watch with interest the revised sentence and will continue to fight for appropriate sentencing for violent offenders, particularly when thugs such as Robert Collard are given lenient sentences despite overwhelming evidence of recalcitrant and vicious behaviour.

 I continue to meet with constituents in the electorate on a range of issues which are of interest to them and encourage anyone who wants to meet to discuss any federal issue to please contact my office to arrange an appointment. As always, if there is anything you believe I can assist you with, please do not hesitate to contact me on (08) 9390 1211.

 Yours sincerely,

Don Randell

Randall E-News 17 October 2012


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