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Monday, 21 March 2011
Page: 2433

Mr MORRISON (3:12 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Can the Minister for Foreign Affairs confirm that, eight months after the Prime Minister’s announcement of a regional processing centre in East Timor, no country has agreed to host it, no country has agreed to fund it, no country has agreed to send any asylum seekers there and no country has agreed to provide any resettlement places for people processed there? When will the Minister for Foreign Affairs clean up the mess of the Prime Minister’s failed policy for a processing centre in East Timor?

Mr RUDD (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —I welcome the question from the member for Cook, who seems to have changed portfolio. There seems to have been an ‘accident down at mill’ recently following certain public interventions by the member for Cook on recent developments concerning asylum seekers, and now he seeks to shadow me rather than my friend and colleague the minister for immigration. We will see how the member for Cook’s career evolves in the days and weeks ahead.

The member for Cook refers to the proposals by the government concerning a regional protection framework and within that the concept of a regional processing centre. He specifically asked for progress on these matters. He should be aware that both I and my colleague the immigration minister have consulted with our counterparts, not just in the region but beyond as well, including both of us with the High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, myself most recently only two weeks ago. Furthermore, I would draw the honourable member’s attention to the fact that within the next couple of weeks the minister and myself will be attending the Bali processing meeting in Bali with the Indonesian foreign minister and with foreign ministers and representatives from across the region. That is the proper mechanism through which we determine a regional response to what is a problem not just for the Australian nation, not just for the wider region but in fact for the entire world.

In fact, if the honourable member for Cook reflected for a moment on what is unfolding in the Middle East he would reflect on the fact that political instability there is likely to create further movement of peoples from the Middle East to the countries of Europe and beyond. That is why, rather than engaging in partisan opportunistic interventions in this debate, it would be wiser for any responsible member of this House to contribute productively to what is a global challenge, a regional challenge and a national challenge for Australia, and that is how the Australian government is currently engaged.