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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 5847

Asylum Seekers


Mr MORRISON (Cook) (15:02): My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. I refer the minister to his proposal to transfer illegal arrivals from Australia to Malaysia in the five-for-one people swap deal. Can the minister assure the House that he has visited the facilities where they will be accommodated, the hospital where they will receive their health care and the schools that their children will attend and can he guarantee that he is satisfied with the standard of care they will receive for the entire duration of their stay in Malaysia, as I can for illegal arrivals transferred to Nauru?


Mr BOWEN (McMahonMinister for Immigration and Citizenship) (15:03): I thank the honourable member for his question. I can confirm that of course I visited Malaysia several times in recent months and of course I can confirm that the arrangement between the prime ministers that was announced—that asylum seekers transferred from Australia to Malaysia will be treated with dignity and respect and in accordance with human rights standards—will be operationalised. I can also confirm that this is an arrangement which has been developed in conjunction with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. I can confirm that because it is the case.

Mr Melham interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Banks is warned.

Mr Morrison: Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order on relevance. My question was specific: whether he had visited the facilities where they will be accommodated, where they will receive health care and where their children will go to school—the actual facilities.

The SPEAKER: The member for Cook will resume his place. The debate and argument that I allowed in the question before those points that the member raised in his point of order, as I have said before, allow for a much wider response under the 'directly relevant' standing order. The minister has the call and will be directly relevant to the question.

Mr BOWEN: As I said, this arrangement, which has been developed in conjunction with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which has been consulted at every step of the way, will ensure that appropriate standards of care are in place. That is very important, because there are two alternative propositions before the House. I note the magical mystery tour by the honourable member, with the Leader of the Opposition, to Nauru at the weekend and I notice that some members opposite, including the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, have been trying to claim that the Nauru solution has the endorsement of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said on 27 May in relation to Nauru that it was auspiced under the United Nations. Senator Birmingham this week claimed that the Nauru centre was 'overseen and approved' by the UNHCR. Well, the UNHCR had a very funny way of showing it because it said this when the Nauru centre was closed:

UNHCR had strong concerns about the Pacific solution …

… in our view, today's closure of the centre at Nauru signals the end of a difficult chapter in Australia's treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

It is easier to be more accurate when you are plagiarising than when you make it up as you go. This week, in response to claims from the opposition, the UNHCR said:

UNHCR was not involved and, indeed, distanced itself from any role in overseeing or managing the processing facilities on Nauru under the Pacific Solution.

I look forward to informing the House and further reporting to the House on the protections in place in relation to the arrangements with Malaysia. I am sure the honourable member for Cook will similarly update the House on his discussions with President Ahmadinejad and the protections that are in place with his transfer agreement with Iran.