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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13260

Syria


Mr HASTIE (Canning) (14:39): My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. Will the minister update the House on Australia's response to the Syrian humanitarian crisis? What security and other screening arrangements has the government put in place to ensure that Australia is helping those who are most in need—women, children and families of persecuted minorities?


Mr DUTTON (DicksonMinister for Immigration and Border Protection) (14:40): I thank the honourable member most sincerely for his question and for his passion in relation to making sure that Australia can do the right thing but have always at the forefront of our minds our national security interests. The Australian government has in place the most robust security screening measures in relation to those coming in under the humanitarian program, and we will not resile from that one bit. The government has announced that one of the dividends of the stopping of the boats, of restoring order to the way in which we conduct our migration program in this country, is that we will increase the number of people we bring in under the humanitarian and refugee programs.

I do not think it is a well-known fact in Australia at the moment that Australia on a per capita basis settles probably a higher number of people under this program than does any other country in the world, and it has been part of the success of the migration program since the Second World War. In fact, since the Second World War we have settled some 825,000 people under the refugee and humanitarian programs, and as a country we do it very well. When I met with the Secretary-General of the UNHCR in Paris a few weeks ago he complimented Australia on the way in which we were able to provide those settlement services in this country. And second perhaps to Canada, or at least equal with Canada, we are able to provide support to those people as they settle in our country.

What is always important to this nation and what will always be important to this government is that we put the national security of our country ahead of any other consideration. So, we are not in any circumstance going to compromise in relation to the assessment of these applications. There are about 2,800 people who are under consideration at the moment who have had their security checks or are in the process of having their security checks undertaken, as well as their health checks. But I have been very clear—and I repeat it again today—that we are not going to compromise in relation to any of these matters. If we see a security concern in one of these applications, that application will be put to the side and we will consider the next application in the pile.

This is a very important point to labour. The government made its intention very clear, and I will repeat it again today, that we have as the focus of this intake people who are persecuted minorities, those who are assessed as being most vulnerable—that is, women, children and families with the least prospect of returning to their homes, and that will include many Christians. Many Christians will be successful in this program, because they have very little chance of returning to their homes. But we will work with the United Nations and indeed with many Christian leaders from the Syrian community in this country to make sure that we can have a successful settlement of those 12,000 people.