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Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Page: 181

Mr HAASE (2:41 PM) —Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to ask the first question as the member for Durack. My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. I refer the minister to these plans I have here—the specific plans drawn for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship that the Prime Minister has said in question time today do not exist. Can the Minister advise what the costs will be to the taxpayer for the broken promise to expand the Curtin detention centre?

Mr Albanese —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I draw the House’s attention to the fact that we have changed rules not just on answers but also on questions, to make sure that that sort of argument and verballing cannot be allowed in question time.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, on the point of order: the Leader of the House is misleading you and the parliament. We have not changed the standing orders in relation to questions, other than the timing of them at 45 seconds or less. We have said in the agreement that we would give you due licence to have regard for all the standing orders. There is no argument in the question and we are leaving it up to you to interpret in your wise way what is an appropriate question.

The SPEAKER —There is an expectation that because of the overall changes to question time there would be a greater application of the standing order about questions. I indicate to the Leader of the House, now that he has alerted me to the point and given me the opportunity to indicate that it is my intention to tighten the rulings on questions, that that would be the case. If I had come to a conclusion that I should have done anything in response to the member for Durack’s question, I would have invited him to rephrase the question with less argument in it. I will take it that at this point in time we acknowledge that there is to be less argument and that the points in the standing order in relation to questions will be much more tightly adhered to than in the past. That was part of the levelling of the playing field of question time. In this case, I will allow the question, but I indicate to the House that the Leader of the House has given an important reminder to us.

Mr BOWEN (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —I thank the member for Durack for his maiden question as the member for Durack. I am pleased that this is the first question that I will have answered as the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship and the first time as the member for McMahon.

The proposition put by the opposition is that there was a secret plan to extend detention centres on the mainland of Australia. There is one little problem with that equation as it was in the budget and in the additional estimates to the budget. You can imagine the conversation around the cabinet table, ‘We have a secret plan to extend detention centres. Where will we hide it? I know. We will put it in the additional estimates to the budget—the Liberals will never look there.’ But the shadow minister for immigration was right on to it! You have to get up pretty early in the afternoon to get one past him!

He issued a press release on 15 July pointing out that the government had made provision to extend detention centres in Australia. On 17 September I announced plans to deal with the short-term pressures on our detention centres. I also said I would be making further statements about the long-term pressures on detention centres in Australia, and that budget allocation remains available for that expenditure when I make that announcement and when I have completed the review. It is good to see the shadow minister for immigration is right on the case yet again.

Mr Morrison —I raise a point of order on relevance, Mr Speaker.

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Cook will resume his seat. I suppose, having allowed a little bit of the old paradigm and the fact that the playing field was not level, I have, perhaps, encouraged the minister to be responding under the old paradigm. He might try to conclude his answer under the new paradigm.

Mr BOWEN —The member for Durack suggested that there is a plan for 3,000 places at the detention centre at Curtin. As I said on 17 September, ‘That will not happen.’ The Prime Minister has again said today that it will not happen. The department of immigration always enters into contingency planning for operations. I say again in the House: there will not be any extension to the Curtin detention centre anywhere near approaching 3,000 detainees.

Mr Haase —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have an expectation that the question would be answered.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Durack will resume his seat. He has other avenues that have been granted to members under the new standing orders to address any reservations he has about the way in which his question has been responded to. We are not reverting to this argy-bargy under false points of order.

Mr Haase —Mr Speaker, I would like to ask a supplementary question.

The SPEAKER —The one supplementary has been asked. Even if the one supplementary had not been asked, and if the Leader of the Opposition had delegated his supplementary to the member for Durack, I think he had stretched it a bit far to get the supplementary. The member for Fremantle has the call.