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Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Page: 175

Mr ABBOTT (2:18 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to her explicit denials just three days before the election of any plans to expand the Curtin detention centre, contrasted with the government’s explicit commitment to do just that immediately after it was confirmed in office, and I ask the Prime Minister: how can she defend and justify saying one thing before the election and doing exactly the opposite afterwards?

Mr Perrett interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Moreton was not asked the question and he is warned.

Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) —I am happy to answer the Leader of the Opposition’s question. As the Leader of the Opposition probably knows, I was asked during the election campaign about rumours which were then in the media that the government had plans to expand the Curtin detention centre to 3,000—that is, that it would cater for 3,000 asylum seekers. As the minister for immigration has made clear in recent days, the government has no intention to expand and will not be expanding the Curtin detention centre to 3,000. What, of course, was occurring at the Curtin detention centre during the election campaign was a series of construction works—

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! The Prime Minister will resume her seat.

Mrs Mirabella —To give her a bit more time to think about her answer.

The SPEAKER —You can indulge in any thought crime you want, Member for Indi. It was not for that purpose and, if it was for that purpose, there was sufficient brouhaha from your side to enable me to say that this is not a debate. Question time should be seen as one aspect of the way this House operates, and certainly—if I could be part of the commentariat—the questions that are being asked build up to at least the MPI if not some other aspect of House procedures. That is what question time should be about. The question was asked. The Prime Minister is responding. She should be listened to in silence.

Ms GILLARD —During the election campaign, works were occurring at the Curtin detention centre, and I refer to the detail of those works. They were stage 1 accommodation for the approximately 600 detainees then at the centre. The works for stage 1, which began in May 2010, included the letting of contracts for the supply and installation of demountable buildings, installation of fencing and security systems and critical infrastructure work required to support 600 people.

Of course the government is, through the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, working with the Department of Defence. Departments look at contingencies and at options. You would expect them to do that. That is the normal part of prudent planning. Those things have occurred and will continue to occur—the two departments looking at contingencies and options. The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, in recent days, made some detailed statements about expanded capacity and those are available for members of the House and for members of the public.