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Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Page: 10068

Asylum Seekers


Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:01): My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to the fact that Malaysia has confirmed that 30,000 nonresidents were caned between 2005 and 2010. I also refer the Prime Minister to clause 16 of the government's Malaysia swap deal document which states:

This Arrangement represents a record of the Participants intentions … but is not legally binding on the participants.

Given that the arrangement is unenforceable, how can she ensure that asylum seekers dumped in Malaysia will not be caned?


Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:02): The government has negotiated an arrangement with Malaysia in good faith and we will honour that arrangement and the government of Malaysia will honour that arrangement. To the Leader of the Opposition I say this: very simply, I do not expect him to endorse the government's arrangement with Malaysia. That is not the question before the parliament. The executive government will make decisions about asylum seeker processing. Legislative amendments will come before this parliament next week. What needs to be addressed before this parliament is ensuring that executive government, this government, any government, has the legislative authority that it needs to make the decisions it sees best in relation to the processing and transfer of asylum seekers. A little earlier today I wrote to the Leader of the Opposition—

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, on a point of order to do with relevance, the Prime Minister was asked how she could ensure that asylum seekers transferred to Malaysia were not caned. She is now answering an entirely different question. If she has finished the answer to that question, she will assist the House by sitting down.

The SPEAKER: The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat; he has made his point of order. The Prime Minister knows the obligation under the standing orders to be directly relevant to the question.

Ms GILLARD: As I was saying, a little earlier today I wrote to the Leader of the Opposition and advised him that the government would ensure that relevant officials, including the Solicitor-General, were able on Friday to brief him on the legislative amendments. I trust that he will take that briefing. I know that he has been looking for one, so I am sure that something can be organised that suits his convenience.

The important fact here is having the legislation in the right form to enable government to make the decisions that it wants to in relation to the processing and transfer of asylum seekers. I understand that the Leader of the Opposition does not view favourably the government's arrangement with Malaysia. I believe the government of Malaysia will honour the obligations it has freely taken upon itself. The Leader of the Opposition may well form a different view about the merits of the Malaysia arrangement, but there is only one question that will come before this parliament and that question will be the amendments to the Migration Act. I will be asking the Leader of the Opposition to deal with those amendments in the national interest.