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Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Page: 292

Asylum Seekers

Senator McKIM (Tasmania) (14:16): My question is to the Leader of the Government representing the Prime Minister. Minister, the Acting Chief Migration Officer of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Kantha, has confirmed that 60 people who sought asylum from Australia and who have since been detained in the illegal detention centre on Manus Island will be forcibly deported from Papua New Guinea and that travel documents for this are currently being prepared. Is the government aware of this, and what representations, if any, have you made to the PNG government?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:16): Senator McKim, I have not seen the statement by the minister of the New Guinean government to whom you refer—

Senator McKim: It was the Chief Migration Officer.

Senator BRANDIS: I am sorry, the Chief Migration Officer of the government of New Guinea. I have not seen that statement. The arrangements put in place by the previous Labor government in relation to Manus Island, which you supported at the time, are arrangements which this government has been forced to deal with as a legacy of those who went before us. As you know, Senator McKim, it was announced at the end of last year—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Pause the clock. A point of order, Senator McKim?

Senator McKim: I have two matters. Firstly, the Attorney has just misled the chamber by saying that the Greens supported that.

The PRESIDENT: That is not a point of order, Senator McKim.

Senator McKim: My second point goes to relevance. The question very clearly was: is the government aware that Papua New Guinea is intending to forcibly deport 60 people who sought asylum from Australia, and what representations, if any, has the government made? I am not interested in a homily from Senator Brandis that misleads the Senate on the facts of the matter.

The PRESIDENT: I did hear the Attorney-General indicate that he was not aware of the comments raised, and that was partly in relation to your preamble. The minister still has one minute and 20 seconds in which to answer the question. The minister is aware of the question.

Senator BRANDIS: Senator McKim, although I am not aware of the statements of this gentleman from the New Guinean government, I can tell you that I am advised that the 60 asylum seekers of whom you speak are people who have not been assessed to be refugees. Whatever protection obligations may attach to the government of New Guinea are protection obligations that attach to people either who have been assessed to be refugees or whose claim to be assessed as refugees is underway. I am advised that these 60 people are people whose claim to be refugees has been rejected by the appropriate authorities.

Senator Ian Macdonald: So they are not refugees.

Senator BRANDIS: In fairness to Senator McKim, Senator Macdonald, he did say asylum seekers. But he did not disclose in his question that these people are people whose claim to be refugees has been rejected. In those circumstances, under international law and under the refugee convention, the country to whom they make application for asylum has every right to return them to the country of their citizenship.

The PRESIDENT: Senator McKim, a supplementary question.