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Monday, 16 November 2009
Page: 11665

Mr TURNBULL (2:10 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister explain to the House and to the Australian people precisely what the terms are of the preferential deal that was offered, apparently in writing, to entice the 22 asylum seekers to disembark from the Oceanic Viking?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —I will happily table, for the information of the House, as I understand it is already in circulation, the text of a note signed by the relevant official from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Mr Jim O’Callaghan, minister-counsellor for immigration at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia. It is not a remarkable document, and I will table it for the Leader of the Opposition’s information.

The second thing I will comment on in response to the honourable member’s question is his reference to preferential treatment. I say to the honourable gentleman the following: he should take note of a letter, which I will also table, from the Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. It reads as follows:

I would like to confirm the following matters regarding the procedural and other arrangements applying to the group—

referring to the group of individuals on this vessel. The letter says, among other things:

The group is being treated in a manner consistent with that afforded to any other asylum seeker or refugee in Indonesia. Secondly, they have been, are being or will be, assessed by the UNHCR in accordance with the usual processes. Thirdly, the Indonesian government and the Australian government have agreed to a set of arrangements regarding the time frames for the processing of the group in Indonesia, consistent with international practice and settlement procedures.

That, among other things contained in the letter, which I am about to table, clearly articulates from the perspective of the Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship that these are not preferential arrangements; they are consistent with normal process. I commend this letter to the honourable gentleman for his information. As soon as I have a copy of the other document that I referred to before, in answer to his question I will table it presently.