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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 8498

Asylum Seekers

Mr MORRISON (Cook) (14:42): My question is to the Prime Minister. I remind the Prime Minister that on over 100 occasions over the past four years the coalition has called on her to swallow her pride and pick up the phone to the President of Nauru to restart offshore processing. Meanwhile, there have been over 1,000 deaths, 22,000 illegal arrivals, more than 8,000 people denied protection visas waiting offshore and a $4.7 billion blow-out in the budget. Why was it wrong to pick up the phone then but not today?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:43): As the shadow minister is well aware, for some time now the government has indicated that it has been prepared to compromise in order to secure offshore processing. In particular, for some time now the government has indicated that it was prepared to compromise and to have a detention centre in Nauru, to embrace that aspect of the opposition's plan in order to see action and change. Whilst the government was prepared to compromise, that was not met by compromise from the opposition; in those circumstances, where the parliament was gridlocked, I asked three eminent Australians to provide a report to chart the way forward, and they have done a very good job indeed.

Consequently, we are now prepared to act. We are prepared to act in the terms of this report. We have been prepared for some time now to have offshore processing. Having received this report, we are now determined to see offshore processing in the form recommended by Angus Houston and his team.

As the member who asked the question would be well aware, Angus Houston and his team are recommending an integrated package. They are recommending a package that has a different approach to Nauru and PNG than that taken in the past. In particular, they are very clear on the need to ensure that there are no incentives for people to get into boats, and consequently they have made a recommendation, controversial in the eyes of many, that you equalise times on Nauru and Manus Island to the times that people would have experienced in processing and resettlement if they had not got on a boat. This different approach to Manus and PNG is part of an integrated package, which includes lifting the number of refugee places for refugees who are resettled in Australia and a different approach to family reunion, building on the work already done for the Malaysia agreement. This is a comprehensive report with an integrated package of recommendations, and that is why the government has endorsed it in principle as a whole.

I would say to the opposition that they have the opportunity today to work with the government to enable offshore processing to start on Nauru and in PNG. The Australian public do not want to see further politicking on this; they want to see action. We are prepared to engage in further compromise in endorsing in principle the recommendations of the Houston report. I know we are working in good faith with the opposition. I think that is a good thing in Australia's national interest.