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Thursday, 27 June 2013
Page: 7278

Refugees


Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:42): My question is to the Prime Minister. I remind him of his broken promise to turn boats around, his decision to abolish the Pacific Solution and temporary protection visas, his asylum freeze that led to the riots in our detention centres, his decision to grant visas to those who blew up SIEV36 and his bungling of the Oceanic Viking incident. I ask: will the Prime Minister finally accept responsibility for the decisions that have led to illegal boat arrivals now running at over 3,000 every month?


Mr RUDD (Griffith—Prime Minister) (14:43): I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the question. It is worth noting that in the period of the Howard government about 250 boats arrived on Australia's shores, of which the Howard government turned back four to Indonesia. Secondly, before honourable members get too excited about this let me just be quite direct about this matter. Prior to the 2007 election, I indicated—

Mr Hartsuyker interjecting

The SPEAKER: What is the member for Cowper doing about observing the standing orders?

Mr RUDD: that we would seek to turn boats back. The Leader of the Opposition, if he is elected to be Prime Minister of Australia, will be advised by the officials, the security agencies and the Australian Navy that that is simply not possible under current circumstances. The reason for that is the Indonesian government has made it absolutely plain on the public record. I quote the Indonesian ambassador, who I understand has recently been a dinner companion for the member for Curtin. The Indonesian ambassador came out and said:

It's not possible for the Coalition to say that it has to go to Indonesia, back to Indonesia, because Indonesia is not the origin country of these people … no such collaboration will happen between Indonesia and Australia and bring back the people to Indonesia.

Last time I looked at diplomatic practice, ambassadors spoke on behalf of their countries. That is what the Indonesian ambassador said not years ago but on 31 May 2013. I say to the Leader of the Opposition that if we are having a serious debate in this country about asylum seekers then it should be a debate about policies which work, as opposed to slogans which sound good. That is what is important here. Those opposite know for a fact that the Indonesian ambassador and, through him, the Indonesian government, will not cooperate with the policy which the Leader of the Opposition advocates.

In the period ahead I will be taking briefings from the national security community about what further can be done in this area. I say to the Leader of the Opposition—and this is a genuine invitation to him—that if he wants to engage in a real policy discussion and provide real policy solutions which could work on the high seas to deal with this problem confronting not just Australia but also countries around the world, I would urge him to take a briefing from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, to take a briefing from ASIS and to take a briefing from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the Department of Defence, the Australian Navy and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

This is absolutely how proper policy making works: facts are presented, alternative policies are produced and then you get on with the business of implementing a policy. It is quite different to simply stand up and use slogan and invective as if it were a substitute for policy. The easiest thing to do in this parliament is to stand up and use invective. The hardest thing to do in this parliament is to put forward a policy plan which works for the nation.

Mr Tehan interjecting

The SPEAKER: And there is still time for me to throw the member for Wannon out of the chamber!

Mr Abbott: Speaker, would the Prime Minister undertake to table the Defence advice he referred to in his answer claiming that the Navy cannot do now what it has done before?

The SPEAKER: Was the Prime Minister reading from a document?

Mr RUDD: No, I was not, Speaker, because I have been briefed on these things many times before. I say to the Leader of the Opposition: read the transcript of the advice from the Chief of Navy in Senate estimates and, on top of that, do what any other responsible alternative Prime Minister does and take briefings from the intelligence community, from ASIS, from ASIO, from the Defence department and from the services. Or is he frightened of facing the facts?

The SPEAKER: The Prime Minister will resume his seat. There was no document.