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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 9610

Asylum Seekers


Ms O'NEILL (Robertson) (14:31): My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. What is the most effective deterrent the government can put in place to deter people smuggling and irregular migration to Australia? What other options have been put forward and what would their impact be?


Mr BOWEN (McMahonMinister for Immigration and Citizenship) (14:31): I thank the honourable member for Robertson for her question. The answer to the question is that the most effective deterrent for people smuggling is the arrangement negotiated between Australia and Malaysia.

The advice received by this government has been made available to the opposition. That advice is clear. The advice is that to break the people smugglers' business model you have to take away the product they sell. That advice says—

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship is not necessarily the hardest person to hear in this chamber, but on this occasion there was so much other noise it was difficult to hear even his voice. The chamber will remain silent. The minister has the call; he will be heard in silence.

Mr BOWEN: The advice is clear. The advice has been made available to the opposition. That advice is that to break the people smugglers' business model it is necessary to remove the product they sell. The product they sell is a better chance of resettlement in Australia. Well over 80 per cent of the people who arrive in Australia by boat begin that boat journey from Malaysia. The most important and clearest message we can send is to return them to where they began that boat journey—not to Nauru, where they will be processed and the vast majority resettled in Australia. This is an arrangement which was been negotiated with Malaysia in consultation with the UNHCR. It involves an increase in our refugee intake and improved protection outcomes across the region.

The very clear advice has now been made available to the Leader of the Opposition. We know the Leader of the Opposition is not big on experts. He does not like climate change experts, he does not like legal experts, he does not like experts when it comes to people smuggling. But the advice has been made clear: an outcome which involves Nauru alone, which would involve over 90 per cent of the people who are resettled from Nauru being resettled in Australia or New Zealand, is no disincentive at all.

We know Nauru will not work. We also know that it is an expensive option. The member for Cook said earlier this year that Nauru would cost 'significantly less' than the Malaysia arrangement. The opposition leader said that Nauru could be up and running 'at a relatively low cost'. We know costings are not their strong point but they got this one particularly wrong, because advice released by me on the weekend shows my department's estimate of the cost of a detention facility at Nauru over four years at just under $1 billion.

Mr Simpkins interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Cowan is warned!

Mr BOWEN: If you disagree with that, release your own costings. If the opposition do not agree with that they are free to release their own costings, but I doubt we will see that. This is just the operational cost, not the capital cost. Here is a test for the Leader of the Opposition. Last week the Leader of the Opposition said:

I think that our country should have the best border protection policy that the government of the day thinks that it needs and I’m prepared to work constructively to give the Government, to restore to the Government, the option of third country offshore processing which it says the High Court and the Solicitor-General have denied to it.

The situation is clear. The government believes that it needs the Malaysia arrangement. If the Leader of the Opposition is good to his word and is prepared to work for the national interest he will support legislation to enable the government to break the people smugglers' business model by the arrangement with Malaysia.