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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 8497

Asylum Seekers


Ms ROWLAND (Greenway) (14:39): My question is to the Prime Minister. How is the government getting on with the job of implementing the recommendations of the expert panel report on asylum seekers?


Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:39): I thank the member for Greenway for her question and note that she is back from maternity leave and that baby Octavia is in the gallery watching Mum at work. It is great to see baby Octavia and husband Michael there. How intriguing question time is for young children, we are about to test, I suspect. But it is good to see them in the gallery today.

The member for Greenway, on her return from maternity leave, has asked me a very important question. As I just indicated in answer to the question from the Leader of the Opposition, three eminent Australians who deserve our thanks have delivered a very important report, and the government has endorsed in principle the recommendations of this report.

We are seeking urgently to amend legislation so that we can, as recommended by this report, commence offshore processing in Nauru and on PNG. We are seeking to do that urgently, as recommended by the report. I have today been briefed by the chief of our defence force, who has advised me that, if the parliament works to pass the legislation recommended by Angus Houston and his team this week, it will be possible for the Defence Force to deploy reconnaissance teams on Friday to Nauru and to PNG. The work of those reconnaissance teams would be to scope the task of constructing appropriate facilities in both locations.

I have today spoken to the President of Nauru and the Prime Minister of PNG. I have explained to them the findings of the Angus Houston report and that the parliament is considering legislative amendments this week. I have received from both men an assurance that they are prepared to work with Australia on their nations hosting regional processing centres, as recommended by the Houston report. They have also indicated to me that they would welcome the reconnaissance teams on Friday and that they would be prepared to see early construction works of temporary facilities following the work of those reconnaissance teams. Of course, we need to work with those nations in order to secure a comprehensive agreement for these centres.

That means that if this parliament can act this week then action on the ground will be starting as soon as the reconnaissance teams land into PNG and into Nauru on Friday. I believe this parliament should not fail the test of putting those reconnaissance teams in that position so that we can get on with the job of saving lives at sea, of a better approach to refugee and asylum seeker issues.