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Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 11229

Asylum Seekers

Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (14:22): My question is to the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister advise whether the government will continue to receive the additional 4,000 refugees at a cost of $216 million from Malaysia, regardless—

Government members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Bennelong has the call. He should be heard in silence and then I would be able to know what he was asking so that I could then adjudicate whether the response was directly relevant.

Mr ALEXANDER: Thank you. Will the government continue to receive the additional 4,000 refugees at a cost of $216 million from Malaysia, regardless of whether they are able to proceed with their Malaysian people swap? If so, will those refugees form part of the current humanitarian program or be in addition to the current intake?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:23): I remain determined to implement our arrangement with Malaysia and, in that determination, I remain determined to give 4,000 genuine refugees, who are in Malaysia now and have been appropriately processed, a new life. Many of them have waited for years for a chance at a new life. But, yes, I do want to implement the Malaysia arrangement in its entirety—that is, I want to take the action we have been advised will be the most effective to deter people from getting on leaky boats, so that we do have the transfer arrangement with Malaysia and we do take 4,000 people and give them a new life.

To the member for Bennelong who asked this question, I do ask him to reflect on this: what is wrong with the government having the power it needs to implement the plan it believes is the best to give 4,000 people a new life, properly provided for, costed and appropriated within the government's budget? What is wrong with that? Apparently the only thing that is wrong with that, from the point of view of the opposition, is that it does not serve their base political interest. So the opposition, if it continues on the course that it is on now, will deny this country the ability to process asylum seekers offshore. The opposition will have on its conscience the increase in the number of boats that set sail to this country. They will have this on their conscience having facilitated people smugglers by sending them a message that this country is open for business. The government remains determined to implement the Malaysian arrangement. If the member is concerned about people who are genuine refugees getting a new life, he should vote for the Migration Act amendments.