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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 8500

Asylum Seekers

Mr KEENAN (Stirling) (14:50): My question is to the Prime Minister. I remind the Prime Minister that just six weeks ago she rejected the coalition's call to reopen the Nauru processing centre, saying, 'The experts have looked the Leader of the Opposition in the eye and said to him, "Nauru will not work."' Does she stand by that statement?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:51): The member backs in the point I was making in answer to the earlier question, which is that the government were well and truly prepared to compromise in the last parliamentary session in order to secure legislation so that we could commence offshore processing. We were prepared to compromise. That is the history of this matter, but I do not think the Australian people are interested in who said what. They are interested in action. They are interested in change. They are frustrated when they look and do not believe that the people in this parliament have been able to work together to get change.

The Australian government have been prepared to compromise, and we are prepared now to endorse in principle the full set of recommendations of the Houston report.

Mr Pyne: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. The Prime Minister was asked a very simple question: does she stand by her statement six weeks ago that the experts have looked the Leader of the Opposition in the eye and said to him, 'Nauru will not work'?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. The Prime Minister will answer the question before the chair.

Ms GILLARD: As I was just about to say on the question of processing on Nauru, the government received advice about what the impact of having a detention centre on Nauru would be if it took that step. We received that advice; the Leader of the Opposition received that advice. The advice from the Houston report takes a different approach. The advice from the Houston report does not recommend one strategy; it recommends an integrated package. The aim of the integrated package is to ensure that if people risk their lives at sea, if people give their money to a people smuggler, they get no advantage from it. So one element of that integrated package is a regional processing centre on Nauru which would operate in a different way than detention centres in Nauru have operated in the past, and, in particular, the operation in Nauru would have built into it the same amount of waiting time to get a resettlement opportunity as people would have experienced before they risked their life at sea, before they gave a people smuggler their money. That is the difference: the breadth of the package, the interlocking nature of the recommendations, and the change to the recommendations about what should happen on Nauru and on PNG.

The real question before the parliament today is not these political calibrations as they are being played out now and as they were played out yesterday by so many politicians who wanted to front a television camera to tell the TV audience who had won and who had lost. That is not what the Australian people are looking to us to do. (Time expired)

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:54): My supplementary question is to the Prime Minister. How can Nauru have been so wrong six weeks ago and yet be so right today?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:55): Point No. 1: six weeks ago the government was prepared to agree to Nauru in a compromise arrangement with the opposition.

Opposition members interjecting

Ms GILLARD: Point No. 2: the government, the Australian people and the opposition have now received this report of three eminent Australians. I would recommend that many members of the opposition who are catcalling now actually spend the time to read the report. It is apparent from their interjections that they have not done so and that they do not understand. I hope that no-one is interjecting with disrespectful comments about the work of the panel. The work of the panel is high-quality work. It is a set of recommendations that the panel itself says are an integrated package. The panel itself says the recommendations needed to be put together as a whole. The panel itself recommends a new approach to offshore processing. These are Australians to be respected, and what is also to be respected is the desire of the Australian people to see the politics end and the action begin so we are saving lives at sea. I would urge the opposition to consider that seriously and with generosity.