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Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Page: 145

Asylum Seekers

Ms PLIBERSEK (SydneyDeputy Leader of the Opposition) (14:12): My question is to the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister confirm whether Australia has approached Indonesia for a people-swap deal? Or should we just wait and read about it in the Jakarta Post?

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahPrime Minister) (14:12): I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for her question. What matters here is stopping the boats. That is what matters. I would have thought that members opposite, having failed so lamentably to stop the boats over the previous five years, would perhaps have a little respectful silence on some of these issues.

Mr Burke: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. If there had been a long preamble, I would accept that something that is being said now by the Prime Minister may possibly be relevant. But this was a very tight, specific question and he should be called to deal with it.

The SPEAKER: I am very mindful of the fact that we inserted the words 'directly relevant' into standing order 104(a). I think the question was very pertinent to the question of the boats, and the Prime Minister is in order in the answer he is giving.

Ms Plibersek: Madam Speaker—

The SPEAKER: We will only have one question on relevance. Have you another point of order to raise under a different standing order? You can only have one on relevance.

Ms Plibersek: I am just repeating the question. The question did not mention boats—

The SPEAKER: I am sorry; that is out of order. There is no point of order.

Mr ABBOTT: Again, I do thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for her question. The fact is that we are talking to Indonesia about a whole range of measures. We are cooperating closely with the Indonesian government at every level to stop the boats. That cooperation is close and getting closer all the time. What we are specifically talking about is how we can best handle the question of people who are picked up by Australia in the Indonesian search-and-rescue zone. I know members opposite like to identify failure very quickly here, but let me just reassure members opposite that while the boats have not yet stopped they certainly are stopping. In the first two months of the new government, illegal arrivals were down 75 per cent on the last two months of the former government, and in October illegal arrivals by boat were down 90 per cent on the peak month of the former government.