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Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Page: 6691

Asylum Seekers

Senator CASH (Western Australia) (14:31): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Carr. I refer the minister yet again to the statement by the Prime Minister on 8 July 2010 when she said, 'I would rule out anywhere that is not a signatory to the refugee convention.' Given that Nauru, unlike Malaysia, is a country that has signed the UN Convention on Refugees and is ready, willing and able to reopen the Australian-built offshore processing centre immediately, why won't the government swallow its ill-fated pride and pick up the phone to the President of Nauru and restart offshore processing, as it consistently says it wants to, immediately?

Senator CARR (VictoriaMinister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) (14:32): What we can say is that the govern­ment has made it perfectly clear that it is the view of the government that Malaysia will succeed and Nauru will fail. What we have is a proposition that the shadow minister for immigration has previously said—on 21 June this year, for instance—that the question of being a signatory to the convention is, in fact, irrelevant. What he said was that 'it was never our issue as to whether there was a signatory to the refugee convention'. What we do also know is that the UNHCR has indicated that the agreement with Malaysia has the potential to enhance the protection for refugees in Malaysia as well as the region as a whole. What we do have, of course, is in contrast to—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Carr, you might resume your seat until there is silence. Senators, I have asked Senator Carr to resume his seat until there is silence. When three o'clock comes both sides can debate this.

Senator CARR: What we do know is that the UNHCR has indicated that, in regard to Nauru, the UNHCR was not involved and has in fact distanced itself from any role in overseeing or managing the processing facilities on Nauru under the Pacific solution, and that recent media reports indicating that the centre on Nauru was approved by and run under its auspices 'are factually incorrect'—and I am quoting the UNHCR spokesperson in the Age of 9 June 2011. What we do know is that the Nauru proposition, as is outlined by the opposition, will not in any way assist Australia. What we saw was that the persons that ended up in Nauru actually ended up in Australia—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Carr, resume your seat. Order on both sides! I remind both sides that the time for debating this is in 25 minutes. When there is silence we will proceed.

Senator CARR: What we can say with certainty is that the people-smugglers will be able to sell a ticket—(Time expired)

Senator CASH (Western Australia) (14:36): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer the minister to the statement by former Western Australian Labor Premier Geoff Gallop last Friday when he said, 'I'd be talking to the Liberals about getting Nauru to work; I think that is the only sustainable position'. If a respected former Labor Premier, along with many members of the Labor caucus, admits that the coalition's Nauru option is the only sustainable position to recommence offshore processing, why doesn't the government accept its own colleagues' advice?

Senator CARR (VictoriaMinister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) (14:37): What we can say with certainty is that 95 per cent of the people who were resettled from Nauru ended up in Australia or New Zealand and that the Nauru option was not ever likely to succeed. We also know, especially now, given the circum­stances that have arisen and given the historical experience of Nauru, that it is not likely to succeed in the future. Nauru is a model which the government has rejected, and we believe firmly in the proposition that the government has advanced that Malaysia is a successful proposition. That is clearly why the opposition is so strenuous in its opposition to it. Nauru is about providing a ticket to Australia. It does not act as a disincentive for the people smugglers who are selling that ticket on the international market.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: I will give Senator Cash the call when there is silence. Senator Cash, you are quite correct in waiting. I will give you the call if it is done properly and within the sequence of the questions.

Senator Cameron interjecting

Senator Cash: Would you like a death stare?

Government senators interjecting


Senator CASH (Western Australia) (14:39): Mr President, I ask a further supple­mentary question. Does the minister agree with his senate colleague Senator Cameron when he said that the government's proposed amendments to the Migration Act breach Australia's international obligations and questioned whether the plan would even work? Why has the minister come adrift from his own moral moorings and why is he intent on supporting a policy that exposes innocent people to human rights violations? When will the minister ever live down his shame?

Senator CARR (VictoriaMinister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) (14:40): Your suggestion that Minister Bowen has lost his moral moorings, from a party whose idea of moorings is to send boats back out to sea, is beyond any possible imagination of moral compass. What we have is a party that is firmly committed to putting people back into harm's way by sending boats back out to sea. How can you possibly claim that you have got an interest in human rights? Your policy on Nauru saw the gross abuse of people on that island and saw enormous pain being inflicted on people on that island—a country that had not signed up to the UN conventions and had no interest in the UN conventions until very recently. Your interest in human rights is very short lived and very recent. It is not going to be a position that we will take any notice of coming from the likes of— (Time expired)