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Tuesday, 17 June 2014
Page: 6384


Mr MORRISON (CookMinister for Immigration and Border Protection) (20:36): In answering the matters raised by members—firstly, on the issue of processing on both Manus and Nauru from the establishment of offshore processing on Manus island and Nauru in November 2012 through to September 2013. This is the period of time in which the previous government was running processing at both of those facilities in support of the governments of Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

The total number of decisions arrived at during that period of time was zero. Not one. There was not one decision that was handed down. That is in a period of around 10 months. We have been in office for nine months and there has been a total of 109 decisions or recommendations made in refugee status determination processes. I do find it puzzling that the member opposite would want to give lectures on how processing should be done when the previous government spent almost a year involved with these facilities and did not process one claim. Not one. One hundred and nine have now been completed by the governments of Papua New Guinea and Nauru, in assessing people's claims.

It is true, and I do accept the findings of the Cornall report. This is the report that we promised would be done. I said that we would have an independent report that would seek to explain what happened. I think the report does an excellent job of explaining what happened, and the contributing factors are as Mr Cornall suggests. The frustrations around processing were definitely one of those and that is why the government had to pick up from a standing start on processing to get to the position that we are in now; a position that we have achieved in less than nine months and that they could not achieve, or were not even close to achieving, in the 10 to 11 months that they were in office when they were supporting these arrangements.

The processing and resettlement are critical to how these facilities run. We had no legacy to work with when we took over the support of these facilities under the arrangements which the previous government had arrived at under the memorandum of understanding. I mentioned the three meetings that I held with my counterparts, one of which was a formal dialogue between Australia and Papua New Guinea. That was part of their formal agenda for those discussions. And I have been in Papua New Guinea more often than any other minister in this government. I am constantly there, and I will continue to be there as we have an important job to do there.

Mr Cornall makes reference to when processing commenced. And I stand by my statements of 15 January, because the whole processing end-to-end process starts with the initial interviews, and that had already commenced at the time that I made the statements. I suggest that he probably does not want to use Fairfax media as his research tool if he is going to pursue this portfolio with any credibility. They are constantly having to be corrected on these matters. When you listen to journalists who have agendas rather than pursuing pure reporting, well, good luck listening to Michael Gordon. I am sure he will serve you well.

In terms of the actions taken by the government, I simply refer you to page 76 of the Cornall report. The Cornall report makes very clear the actions the government took with the intelligence reports that led up to the terrible incidents in early February. In addition to what is noted there, we ordered the deployment of 130 extra security guards into that place to ensure that the maximum protection could be provided. As terrible as that night and the night before were, the centre opened the next morning and ran, and there were tremendous acts of heroism that night that actually protected and got many, many people to safety down to the oval. That was because of the planning and the preparation that was put in place for that evening. It was not like what happened at Nauru on their watch—those over on that side—when it burned to the ground; or on their watch, when Christmas Island burned to the ground; or when Villawood burned to the ground. That did not happen that night. Something terrible happened that night, we all agree, but the centre stood up the next morning and the centre continued to operate. That was a critical thing to happen, and that was a result of the planning and preparations that went into dealing with what was a terrible incident on that occasion.

The government took actions; the government planned, but we had to deal with the mess that we had been left with by the previous government. That was a long fuse that went from a decision on 19 July to implement a policy for which they had not thought through the implementation issues that had to be addressed in order to announce it. And in doing so, they set the scene for what we saw that night.