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Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Page: 6905

Asylum Seekers

Mrs MARKUS (Macquarie) (15:08): My question is to the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister confirm that immigration laws are enforced in Malaysia by a 500,000-strong volunteer police force and that the US State Department has cited reports of this force engaging in abuses including rape, beatings and extortion? Given that the US State Department has cited no such concerns with respect to Nauru, why won't the Prime Minister swallow her pride and pick up the phone to the President of Nauru or, failing that, at least pick up the phone to the foreign minister?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (15:08): In relation to the member's question I would say the following: as she would be aware from the statements I have made and the minister for immigration has made in this place and also in the media, we are going to agree with Malaysia that the human rights of asylum seekers transferred to Malaysia are respected.

On the question of Nauru as an alternative to Malaysia, I want to send the strongest possible message to people smugglers. I want to break the very business model for the business that they ply. I understand that the Leader of the Opposition, the shadow minister and the member who asked the question want to send a much weaker message to people smugglers. I will leave them with the weaker policy. The government will pursue the stronger policy. The stronger policy is a transfer agreement. The stronger policy is being able to say to people smugglers and to asylum seekers, 'If you risk your life at sea, if you pay your money to a people smuggler, you end up at the back of the queue in Malaysia.' The message that the opposition wants to send is, 'If you risk your life at sea, if you pay a people smuggler, you will go to Nauru for a period of time and then end up in Australia.' That is why it is a weaker message. So we will pursue the stronger approach to border protection. We will leave the member who asked the question and the Leader of the Opposition with the much weaker approach.