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Monday, 23 May 2011
Page: 4047

Asylum Seekers


Ms JULIE BISHOP (CurtinDeputy Leader of the Opposition) (14:49): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer the foreign minister to the now abandoned East Timor regional detention centre proposal, the Manus Island regional detention centre—which is now on hold—and the five-for-one swap deal with Malaysia, which appears far from concluded. When will the foreign minister act to end this ongoing regional humiliation of Australia by taking charge of the shambles that has become Australia's border protection policy?

Mr Pyne interjecting

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

Mr Billson: Give us the spider!

The SPEAKER: The member for Dunkley is warned.





Mr RUDD (GriffithMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:50): The honourable member's question suggests that the government has a regional reputational difficulty on this matter. Having just been in the region, let me tell you that those opposite, during the period that they were in office, did not just have a problem of regional reputation—there was an absolute foreign policy disaster in the region through the actions on the part of the Indonesian government at the time, under President Megawati, to open the doors because those opposite did not know how to manage the relationship with Indonesia, and on and on it went.

From those opposite there was also the extraordinary spectacle on the eve of the election, which the Prime Minister just referred to, when the country was absolutely misled on the question of children overboard. Let it not be forgotten that those opposite collectively stood by when one of their senior ministers went to the Australian people and delivered a fundamental untruth to them—and they know it. One other thing that those opposite failed to deliver during their period in office was any regional processing agreement. The shadow foreign minister asks what has been engaged by my portfolio in support of the work done by the immigration minister. Let me tell her: through the work that we have taken most recently in the Bali process, for the first time there is now a regional framework agreement which can be applied to all countries within the region. Secondly, for the first time it contains within it a provision for regional processing centres. Thirdly, it contains within it the buy-in of the International Organisation for Migration.

Ms Julie Bishop interjecting

The SPEAKER: The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has asked her question.

Mr RUDD: Fourthly, it contains within it the buy-in of the UNHCR. Mr Speaker, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked what we have been doing on the question of regional countries. Let me tell you: that framework was concluded and agreed with myself and the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship in Bali just several months ago. It is on that basis that we are engaged in subsequent bilateral engagements.

In their many years in office, not one single element of progress was made in concluding such a regional processing agreement, which is why they earned the comprehensive condemnation of the UNHCR and other agencies in the humanitarian field across the world. We have engaged the international community, the international organisations, as was all regional states. Look at the statement which was produced out of that conference in Bali. That is what our portfolio has been doing. That represents a fundamental change from what her government achieved in the past.