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Wednesday, 11 December 2013
Page: 1462

Asylum Seekers


Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (15:00): My question is also to the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Projection. I refer to my question last week regarding the number of individuals currently in detention centres and the documents she tabled in response, dated 31 October 2013. Why is the minister so contemptuous of requests by the Senate that she is tabling documents that have been in the public arena for over a month rather than addressing the substance of the question that was actually asked in question time?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaAssistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women) (15:01): I thank Senator Wong for her question. I have to say that if I knew Senator Wong had paid this much attention and had wanted this much detail in relation to border protection policies, perhaps this government—and you can take a point of order because you do not like the truth—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! When there is silence, I will call Senator Moore, who is on her feet. Senator Moore.

Senator Moore: Thank you, Mr President. My point of order is about relevance, and I thank the minister for her help. In terms of the process, it is responding to Senator Wong's question about documents that were tabled in response to our request.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! The minister has been going for 16 seconds at this stage and the minister still has one minute 44 seconds remaining. I am listening closely to the minister's answer. There is no point of order at this stage.

Senator CASH: Thank you, Mr President. Let me tell you what contempt is. Contempt is when the former government, in relation to the statistics that I tabled, determined that because there were so many people coming into this country illegally by boat—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Order!

Senator Moore: Thank you, Mr President. Again I have a point of order on relevance. After the initial point of order, we felt that there would be a return to the question, and there has not been.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Order on both sides! Senator Cash and Senator Wong, there is no point debating it across the chamber. Senator Moore has taken a point of order correctly. When there is silence on my left, I will proceed—and on my right. At this stage there is no point of order. The minister has one minute and 25 seconds left on the clock to address the question.

Senator CASH: In relation to content, as I was saying, this government on assuming office determined that it would recommence publishing the statistics in relation to immigration detention, because the former government had made a decision not to publish them. The longest period of time being five continuous months in which the department did not put up on any website the statistics, I asked at estimates time and time again for them. What was the responses that I got? 'The department is currently not putting up the statistics.' So Senator Wong, when you stand up in this place and you accuse someone of being contemptuous, that is the pot calling the kettle black, quite frankly, based on your government's record in relation to the provision that the Australian public—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Order! Have you completed your answer? You have 26 seconds.

Senator CASH: No, I have 26 seconds to go! Seriously, they gave me a dorothy dixer—why would I stop? Contempt is when the former government hides from the Australian people the true state of the detention network in Australia.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Order on my left! Senator Moore is on her feet. You will get the call, Senator Moore, when there is silence on both sides. When there is silence, Senator Bernardi, I will proceed. Order!

Senator Moore: Mr President, my point of order is about relevance. The question was specifically about the tabling of public documents that have been in the public arena for over a month. That was the question.

Senator Cash interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Cash, you have 17 seconds remaining. At this point there is still no point of order. I invite the minister to address the question.

Senator CASH: Thank you, Mr President. As I was saying, this government made a decision on day one that it would recommence publishing the statistics in relation to Australia's detention network and would clean up the mess that those on the other side have created.
















Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (15:06): I have a supplementary question. I refer to the most recent reported arrivals of undetected asylum seekers on Christmas Island—and for the minister's benefit, this is the report of asylum seekers spending a number of days on a beach before they were detected. Can the minister advise when they arrived, how many arrived, for how long they were undetected, and when the minister, Mr Morrison, was first informed?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaAssistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women) (15:06): By way of background, I wonder where Senator Wong was when the boat arrived at Geraldton. I do not remember you asking a question in relation to the boat that came to Geraldton.

Senator Moore: Mr President, I rise on a point of order on relevance to the specific question: when they arrived, how many arrived, for how long they were undetected and when Mr Morrison was first advised. That was the question.

The PRESIDENT: The minister does need to come to the question.

Senator CASH: I would refer Senator Wong to the briefing given last Friday by the minister for immigration and the statement made in the Senate recently in relation to this incident. I will also advise the Senate that the incident is the subject of a standard post-incident operational assessment to ensure that any lessons learnt from this incident are incorporated into future practice.





Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (15:08): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. The minister has not answered the question. It is a very simple question and I would ask her to answer the question that I asked. I also ask her to confirm reports that these individuals arrived on a boat which sank and whether any distress calls were received by local authorities. It is a very straightforward, factual question.