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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 8503

Asylum Seekers


Mr RUDDOCK (Berowra) (15:02): My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, why did the government abolish offshore processing on Nauru four years ago?


Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (15:02): The member who asked the question, who is a former minister for immigration and consequently has a great deal of experience in this policy area, is aware that the government was elected to government with a set of policies about offshore processing and the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers which he did not agree with. That is a matter of history that the member is very well aware of.

Opposition members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): Order! The Prime Minister will resume her seat. The Prime Minister has the call and will be heard in silence.

Ms GILLARD: The government implemented those policies, as the member is aware. The government then determined that it was appropriate to have an approach of breaking the people smugglers' business model through the agreement with Malaysia. As the member is well aware—and he had this experience too when he was minister—there were difficulties in the High Court with that approach. The member can probably give chapter and verse about experiencing such difficulties as the minister for immigration. In those circumstances, we came to this parliament in order to amend the relevant legislation. We faced political gridlock, despite offering compromises—

Dr Jensen interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Tangney will withdraw.

Dr Jensen: I withdraw.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Tangney cannot use that word and he is well aware of it. The member for Tangney will resume his seat; I thank him for his assistance.

Mr Morrison: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order on direct relevance. The question went to why she abolished offshore processing on Nauru four years ago. What were the reasons? Why did you do it?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Cook will resume his seat.

Mr Albanese: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The opposition continually stand in the guise of points of order and repeat the questions that are asked. That is not a point of order, and I ask you to take action under the standing orders regarding disorderly conduct.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Leader of the House will resume his seat, and the member for Mackellar will resume her seat. I will not enter into these relentless points of order. The standing orders have been changed to desist from question time being taken over by points of order. The Prime Minister has the call and will be heard in silence.

Ms GILLARD: To the member's question: the government then came to parliament to change legislation to enable offshore processing, and we know that we faced a gridlock in this parliament. We sought compromise. We offered compromise and that compromise was not accepted. People will have their views about that history and people will pursue their views in the public arena about that history, I am sure. But I say to the member who asked the question and to others more generally today in this parliament that I believe the time for politicking about this is at an end. The time for action is here.

I am disappointed that it is apparent that some in this House do not share that view. That is particularly disappointing when we know that people are losing their lives. It is disappointing when we know that people are losing their lives at sea and that we need to act. This parliament has an opportunity to act. I would like us to seize that opportunity to act as early as later today. That is the choice that is now in front of this parliament. I think we should get on with it.












Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (15:07): I have a supplementary question to the Prime Minister. Given that the Prime Minister has claimed that she was the substantive author of the policy that involved scrapping the Pacific solution, will she now accept at least some responsibility for the results—namely, 22,000 illegal arrivals, 1,000 deaths and a $4.7 billion budget blowout? (Time expired)


Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (15:07): I am of course prepared to accept responsibility for my actions as Prime Minister, my actions as Deputy Prime Minister and my actions as a member of this government. I am prepared to do that every day that I am in this government. I accept responsibility for my actions.

I also believe that, if the Leader of the Opposition were dealing with this policy debate rather than seeking to deal with the politics of it, he would acknowledge that this policy debate has been a difficult one in the life of our nation. It is a difficult one—difficult for members of the Liberal Party who crossed the floor in relation to some measures of the former Howard government, difficult for members of the Labor Party who have struggled with their conscience. It is difficult for our nation as it is for nations around the world to work out the right set of policies in the face of what is really a transnational crime—people smuggling—that mutates and adapts to law enforcement strategies.

Yes, it challenges us. There is no doubt about that, and aspects of it are very hard. So what is the best thing you can do in an environment like that when it challenges you? You can be prepared to compromise, to think and to get things done. I am asking that of the opposition.