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Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Page: 12845

Ms LEY (2:29 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to his previous answers in this House on the numbers of unauthorised boat arrivals. Could the Prime Minister detail to the House the number of asylum seekers that have arrived by boat in each of the following years: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Mr Kerr —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wonder how possibly it would be relevant to the Prime Minister’s responsibility to provide information about periods in which we were not in government.

Honourable members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! Order, those on my left! There is no point of order.

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —I do admire the member for Farrer’s treatment of chronology! For the actual years that she is talking about, I do not have those figures in front of me—I just do not. But I do happen to have a few other figures for the years that she spoke about, because I thought she might ask this question, which has just been asked in the Senate, which is about arrivals by plane. Let me go to the years that she was just talking about. Total asylum seekers arriving—but we do not want that, do we?

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Prime Minister of course is extremely powerful but it is not within his gift to change the question to a question about plane arrivals. It was a question about boat people and that is how he should answer it.

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Sturt will resume his seat. Order! The Prime Minister is responding to the question.

Mr RUDD —I said in terms of the figures that the honourable member is in search of that I did not have them available to me. But what I do have available, because it has been a matter in the public debate and I have just been informed that it has been raised in the Senate, and obviously the member for Sturt is very sensitive about the thousands who came here—

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, on a point of order, the Prime Minister is a member of the House of Representatives. It is not up to him to answer questions that have been asked in the Senate. If he wants to get a question on people who arrive by plane he should answer a dorothy dixer from his own side.

The SPEAKER —Order, the Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat.

Mr Pyne interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Sturt is warned! I am not sure when he was at the dispatch box the Manager for Opposition Business was actually raising a point of order on relevance, because he referred to the Senate question. But I just say that the Prime Minister is responding to the question. The chair has not got the power to decide the way in which the Prime Minister responds to questions. With due respect I will assist the Manager of Opposition Business by indicating to him that I suggest he research the conduct of this place during the last parliament. He will find that the Prime Minister of the day would say that where terminology, as in this question, used asylum seekers, unauthorised arrivals, if in fact the response made reference to those things it fulfilled the relevance standing order, and I am in agreement with that until the Procedure Committee gives the House a suggestion about different standing orders.

Mr Pyne —On the point of order, Mr Speaker, with great respect to your ruling, the standing order 104 says that an answer must be relevant to the question. If you, as the Speaker, are not prepared to rule that a question that was asked in the Senate about boat people arrivals from plane is relevant to this question, then who is supposed to rule that it is irrelevant to the question? Who is supposed to do that if you do not do it?

The SPEAKER —I am not ruling anything about the possibility that you have a problem about a Senate question. A question was asked in this place by the member for Farrer. Included in that question was reference to unauthorised arrivals and asylum seekers. I am saying to you—

Mr Snowdon —Shut up, loser!

The SPEAKER —Order! The Minister for Indigenous Health, Rural and Regional Health and Regional Service Delivery is warned! We will move on. The Prime Minister has the call.

Mr RUDD —I can understand full well why the member for Sturt and others would be sensitive about this. In 2002 total asylum seekers arriving here from onshore, which means by means other than boat, were 5,875; in 2003, 4,439; in 2004, 3,213; in 2005, in 3,203; in 2006, 3,581; in 2007, 4,133—and you will remember my earlier contribution to the debate about the increase globally of push factors affecting all countries—and in 2008, 4,936. You will see that in fact there has been a significant arrival in this country of asylum seekers by means other than boat, and that continued through the period from 2001 on.

Mr Pyne interjecting

The SPEAKER —I remind, generously, the member for Sturt that I warned him, because I have to consider whether a three-day proposal is really warranted for the transgression.

Mr Hockey interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for North Sydney yet again shows he is not able to get the pulse of the place. But that is the thing I actually confront.

Dr Kelly —There is no pulse over there!