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Thursday, 14 March 2013
Page: 2182

Asylum Seekers


Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:23): My question is to the Prime Minister. I remind her that seven illegal boats have arrived in Australia in the last nine days, adding to the 33,500 illegal arrivals since the government changed its border protection laws.

Mr Albanese: Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Leader of the Opposition is being deliberately misleading in the framing of the question.

Mr Dutton: You are desperate and dying.

The SPEAKER: The member for Dickson is warned. The Leader of the House makes a valid point in respect of language, but the question is in order.

Mr Pyne: Could he start again?

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the Opposition can commence his question again.

Mr ABBOTT: I remind the Prime Minister that seven illegal boats have arrived in Australia in the last nine days, adding to the 33,500 illegal arrivals since the government changed border protection laws. So I ask the Prime Minister: isn't illegal immigration by boat, rather than skilled migration, the biggest immigration rort happening under her government?

Mr Albanese: Speaker, I go to the point of order. The Leader of the Opposition knows that, under the law prevailing under both the former government and the current government, it is not illegal to seek asylum.

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop: Speaker—

The SPEAKER: The member for Mackellar can resume her seat. As I said before, the issue raised by the Leader of the House is a valid point. But the question was in order.

Mr Ruddock: I rise on a point of order.

The SPEAKER: The member for Berowra will resume his seat. I will not enter debate as other Speakers have. I have ruled the question in order.

Mr Ruddock interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Berowra will resume his seat.














Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:26): In answer to the Leader of the Opposition's question: first, on the question of asylum seeker and refugee policy, the Leader of the Opposition is well aware that in line with his normal reckless negativity he came into this parliament and exercised his vote for more boats. That is what he did. He could have exercised his vote to back in the expert recommendations of the former Chief of the Defence Force, Angus Houston; a refugee expert, Paris Aristotle; and a foreign affairs expert, Michael L'Estrange. He could have listened to that expert opinion. Instead, he came into this parliament and put his hand up for more boats.

I note that, on this topic of asylum seeker and refugee policy, today, of all days, is a very unusual time for the Leader of the Opposition to raise it, because he and his shadow minister are completely at odds on refugee and asylum seeker policy. The Leader of the Opposition has gone up and down the country, over a number of years now, saying he will stop the boats. He has never said how, but he will stop the boats! And he has said on radio today that he would be making a difference from the first few weeks. And he has said in the past that he would stop the boats in the first few months if he were ever elected; whereas his shadow minister last night said, 'I don't put timeframes on it and I'm not about to. I'm not making such forecasts.' Those were the words of the shadow minister—

Mr Pyne: I hesitate to take this point of order but—

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Bass is warned.

Mr Pyne: How can it be relevant for the Prime Minister to be saying that the Leader of the Opposition did something in this House when that bill was never brought into the House for a vote and therefore we have never voted against that bill?

The SPEAKER: The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. There are other forms in the House to address such issues. The Prime Minister will return to the question before the chair.

Ms GILLARD: As I was saying, what we have had from the opposition, between last night and today, is complete chaos on this question. On this side of the House, apart from pursuing asylum seeker and refugee policy in line with the recommendations of the expert panel, we are rightly focusing on the question of Australian jobs. We believe that jobs are important to Australians: it is at the centre of what a Labor government does. And when there are more than 100,000 temporary overseas workers in Australia and when the rate at which these visas are growing is 20 per cent—far faster than the rate at which employment is growing—then we are concerned. We will always put the jobs of Australians first.

I know that the Leader of the Opposition has a different perspective and that his policy is to make these temporary foreign visas a mainstay of our immigration system. For us, this is about the Australian economy, jobs, opportunity and working conditions, and in those we will always put Australians first. We recognise that there are from time to time legitimate skill needs, but we will make sure that a temporary visa scheme addresses that—and only that.