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Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Page: 10175

Asylum Seekers

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:01) My question is to the Acting Prime Minister. I refer him to the guidelines on the treatment of persons rescued at sea published by the International Maritime Organisation that state:

The government responsible for the Search and Rescue region in which survivors were recovered is responsible for providing a place of safety …

Why, then, is the government giving people smugglers a water taxi service to Australia rather than returning boat people rescued in Indonesia's search and rescue zone to Indonesia?

Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:02): I thank the Leader of the Opposition for that question. I am certain that the member for Wentworth does not thank him. I will deal with the question in detail. First of all, these are matters which are decided for operational reasons at sea. Secondly, those opposite want to have it both ways. On the one hand they say they believe in the refugee convention, and on the other they oppose it and put forward courses of action directly in conflict with it. So what we see here, yet again, is the aggressive negativity of the Leader of the Opposition, who wants to play politics with people's lives. He wants to go the biff on this issue, day after day after day. I know there are members of the front bench over there who cannot stomach this approach—it is playing with people's lives. It is a bit rich for the opposition to go down this road when they held up the consideration of establishing—

Mr Pyne: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It was a very straightforward question about why the government will not return asylum seekers found in Indonesian waters to Indonesia, as is required, and the Treasurer should answer the question.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. It was a very long question with many things raised in it but I do ask the Acting Prime Minister to return to the question before the chair.

Mr SWAN: This government will never—I repeat, never—seek to direct the Navy when it comes to operations at sea. There is a stark contrast between our approach and the approach of those over there. It has been nine months since we offered the opposition a compromise that would have seen the Malaysia policy and processing put in place along with Nauru. In that nine months people have drowned at sea. The fact is that the minute we could get a bill through this parliament to set up offshore processing, we did so. We have been opposed by those here day in and day out—all they want to do is play politics with the lives of people getting on boats. That is what this question is all about. It is a continuation of the aggression of this Leader of the Opposition, who wants to go the biff all of the time. He does not want to have a substantive discussion about policy. We will get on with implementing the Houston report.

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:05): Madam Deputy Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. Given that today we saw the 10,000th illegal arrival by boat just in this year, will the government now reintroduce temporary protection visas and turn back the boats, where it is safe to do so, in order to stop this evil trade?

Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:05): Isn't it interesting—the Leader of the Opposition stands up and advocates a breach of the refugee convention, which was precisely the ground on which he opposed our proposal for processing in Malaysia. No fact demonstrates more that this Leader of the Opposition is not interested in saving lives, is not interested in good public policy—he just wants to play politics day in, day out. I think that those opposite are on to him. The Australian people are on to him. They are sick of his aggressive negativity, day after day going the biff, showing aggression and not getting decent outcomes for Australia.

Mr Pyne: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Treasurer is clearly being offensive and I would ask you to direct him to use parliamentary language in answering questions.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Acting Prime Minister has concluded his answer.