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Thursday, 26 November 2009
Page: 13047


Mr TURNBULL (Leader of the Opposition) (2:00 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to the arrival today of yet another boat, bringing the surge to 55 boats and more than 2,450 unauthorised arrivals since he weakened Australia’s border protection laws. Is the Prime Minister aware that these unauthorised arrivals will take up around 20 per cent of all of the places in Australia’s generous humanitarian immigration program?


Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —It is good to see that Senator Ronaldson has been useful not only on the numbers but also in providing the Ronaldson doctrine, which has to do with reinforcing stereotypes. We have seen a bit of that in the debate in this chamber in the course of the last several weeks.

I would draw the honourable member’s attention to the following facts concerning the impact of security circumstances, which has been felt around the world, arising from the developments in Iraq, developments in Afghanistan and developments in Sri Lanka. I would draw the honourable member’s attention, for example, to the fact that the total number of those with asylum claims worldwide—this is data from the UNHCR—went up from 14,511 in 2005 to 42,478 in 2008. For Europe, it went from 10,295 in 2005 to 37,069 in 2008. If we go to Afghanistan, we see a similar pattern. We see that in 2005 there were some 5,600 Afghanis seeking asylum, rising in 2008 to 14,177 for Europe and 18,440 worldwide. So too with Sri Lanka—in 2005 the worldwide figure was 5,600 and in 2008 it is nearly 10,000. These are the statistical underpinnings of what is occurring around the world, whether it is Iraq, whether it is Afghanistan or whether it is Sri Lanka, and these therefore are the practical challenges that we are speaking about.

The honourable member also referred to the proportion of the total humanitarian intake for Australia each year represented by arrivals coming from various parts of the world. I draw his attention also to the proportion represented by arrivals in Australia coming by all means and seeking asylum. Take, for example, 2007, when we had a total of 4,133 asylum seekers arrive in Australia both by boat and by other means. We had 3,581 in 2006; 3,200 in 2005; 3,200 in 2004; 4,439 in 2003—


Mr Hockey —Mr Speaker, on a point of order going to relevance: the Prime Minister was asked whether he was aware that the asylum seekers take up 20 per cent of the humanitarian places—


The SPEAKER —The member for North Sydney will resume his seat. The Prime Minister is responding to the question.


Mr RUDD —We know that it has been a while since Joe has been allowed to ask a question on jobs. According to our data here, it has in fact been 105 days since the opposition asked the government a question about jobs. We have now had 88 questions on asylum seekers.


The SPEAKER —The Prime Minister will return to the question.


Mr RUDD —I wonder what pattern this reflects. The honourable member’s question went to the proportion of the total Australian humanitarian intake taken up by various groups of people arriving in Australia in a given year. I was simply apprising those opposite of the facts and figures concerning the total number of asylum seekers arriving in Australia during the period that they were in office. The figures ranged from 10,000 in 1996, to 15,000 in 2000, to 17,000 in 2001; and, in the last year they were in office, there were some 4,000. Those opposite seem very keen to reflect a particular view of the statistics.

What I have sought to do in my answer is reflect what is happening worldwide for all countries in terms of outflows from Afghanistan, from Iraq and from Sri Lanka. Of all those numbers, when it comes to Sri Lanka, we have had some 600 or so arrive in Australian waters. On top of that, what I have also tried to reflect to those opposite in the answer is that, if you look at the total number of asylum seekers arriving by boat and by other means in Australia under their watch, the challenges that we face these days are by no means unique. These challenges have been faced by governments in the past and they will be faced by governments in the future.

I would suggest to those opposite, as they pursue the Ronaldson doctrine of stereotyping—part of the infamous Ronaldson email entitled ‘Digging dirt’—that, if they are going to continue to engage in these sorts of tactics, they should at least extend to the House the courtesy of framing them within historical fact and statistical reality. The government’s policy on these matters is clear; we still await some clarity in terms of what those opposite offer by way of an alternative.