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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 9615

Asylum Seekers


Mrs ANDREWS (McPherson) (14:50): My question is to the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister confirm reports that almost 30,000 non-residents in Malaysia have been caned between 2005 and 2010? In the wake of the High Court decision, why didn't the government seek new protections for asylum seekers transferred to Malaysia? Will the Prime Minister guarantee that none of the 800 asylum seekers to be transferred to Malaysia under the government's people-swap plan will be caned?


Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:51): In relation to the question, as the member may well know, we worked hard with Malaysia to negotiate a set of protections for asylum seekers who were transferred to Malaysia or who will be transferred to Malaysia under this arrangements. We negotiated protections in relation to their human rights and we certainly negotiated protections in relation to caning and other human rights questions. But can I also say to the member that I understand that, for political reasons, the opposition will continue to dispute the government's arrangement with Malaysia. I understand that. I understand that the opposition will continue to do that, even though they have now had access to the same advice available to government. That advice has told them—and this cannot be denied; this truth cannot be twisted by the opposition—that the Malaysia arrangement has the best deterrence effect. That advice has told them that Malaysia is the best option. There is no twisting and turning that gets away from that. That advice is in front of the opposition.

They may choose to walk away from that advice. They may choose, in the face of the best possible expert advice, to say: 'We choose the costly solution that won't work. We reject the solution that the experts say will work.' They may choose to send to people smugglers the message that says, 'Go to Nauru and you'll get a ticket to Australia.' They may choose to criticise the government as it sends a message that says, 'If you try to come to Australia, you'll go to Malaysia.' They may choose to play that wrecking politics. That is what we expect from this opposition. We expect them to act as a party of protest.

But the question before this parliament is not whether they will continue to play reckless, negative politics—because we know they will. The question before this parliament is whether the words of the Leader of the Opposition can be relied on. He has said, and I quote his words—

Opposition members interjecting

Ms GILLARD: The opposition are always very keen to get into questions of honesty.

Mrs Andrews: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order in relation to relevance. My question was very specific. It was in relation to caning of nonresidents in Malaysia and whether or not the Prime Minister was prepared to guarantee—

The SPEAKER: The Prime Minister will relate her material directly and relevantly to the question.

Ms GILLARD: The question of course can only be properly answered in this way: the government will be bringing legislation to this parliament to give executive government the power it needs to have offshore processing. We will be relying on the words of the Leader of the Opposition when he 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 real question before the member is whether she wants to join with the Leader of the Opposition in playing reckless politics or whether they want to act in the national interest and amend the legislation. The question is whether or not they are in any way serious about stopping the boats.