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Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Page: 7978

Asylum Seekers

Mr HAYES (Fowler) (14:06): My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, what is the government's position on a negotiated plan to help restore offshore processing of asylum seekers?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:06): I thank the member for Fowler for his question. Yesterday the parliament marked its respects and its sense of grievance and tragedy about the loss of the lives of asylum seekers in the incident last week where an asylum seeker boat capsized. As we remarked to the House yesterday, we do not know for sure how many lives have been lost but it is a considerable number and I think understandably, both in this parliament and beyond, people have reacted with a sense of loss and suffering to this news. The government remains committed to working to try and address the asylum seeker issue, and in particular to try and put an end to the spectre of desperate people risking their lives at sea. We want to put an end to the evil trade of people smuggling and put an end to that kind of evil which seeks to profit so much from human misery. I think the Australian people are asking their political leaders at this time to put politics to one side. We have in the past had discussions with the opposition about trying to find a combined way forward on this issue. We did at an earlier point in time make an offer that the government's proposed solution of an arrangement with Malaysia be combined with the opposition's proposed solution of a centre in Nauru and that we do both. We also said to the opposition at that time that we would consider establishing a review into the efficacy of temporary visas in complementing these facilities, with mutually agreed terms of reference and a mutually agreed chairperson or expert panel. We offered to the opposition that we would look at strengthening the right of redress of asylum seekers transferred to Malaysia. We also said that we would look at including an examination of ways that we could have a greater involvement from UNHCR, the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner. We put this offer to the opposition some time back. I seek to confirm here in parliament today, as I confirmed publicly yesterday, that that offer certainly remains on the table and that I am willing to talk, and the government is willing to talk, to see if we can find a compromise that enables this parliament to realise what I think is supported by all of us—that is, that we see an end to this human misery and loss of life.