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Thursday, 21 October 2010
Page: 1145

Mrs GRIGGS (2:32 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to her promise before the election to establish a regional processing centre in East Timor to dissuade unauthorised arrivals from coming to Australia. As she is yet to present a formal proposal to the government of East Timor and has reversed her pre-election commitment not to expand detention centres in Australia, and given that today the 107th boat this year has arrived. why should the Australian people trust her to stop the boats?

Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for her question, which I understand is her first question in this parliament. I say in answer to her question that there are a number of asserted facts in it which are simply not the case. I understand that the member may not have researched all of those matters herself, but can I say to the member that the government is pursuing dialogue with East Timor on the question of a regional protection framework and regional processing centre. As I have had cause to say in the parliament this week on a number of other occasions, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship was in Dili, in Jakarta and in Kuala Lumpur pursuing discussion as recently as last week.

On the question of detention centre capacity, the government has made a series of announcements. We wanted to provide transparency and certainty to Australians and to communities. We were well aware that there were fear campaigns being whipped up in various parts of the country. I certainly do not suggest that was being done by the member who asked the question, but it was being done, and consequently we wanted to clarify the government’s long-term intentions in relation to detention centres.

We also made what I believe is an important announcement about the treatment of children and families, and it is still not clear to me what the Leader of the Opposition’s position is on that announcement. On some occasions, he has said that it is the work of the Howard government and sought to claim credit for it; on other occasions, he has repudiated it, saying that it would somehow exacerbate problems. At some point he will have to pick between the two.

An opposition member interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! The Prime Minister will resume her seat. This is not directed towards the Manager of Opposition Business, but a warning is a prelude to a naming. The Manager of Opposition Business has the call.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, on the issue of direct relevance: I cannot work out how the Prime Minister’s answer at the moment could possibly be relevant to the question she was asked by the member for Solomon, and I ask you to ask her to return to the question.

The SPEAKER —I will be listening carefully to the response by the Prime Minister, and she must know that wandering into the policies of other parties may be stretching it on this occasion, even though the question was fairly broad by the end.

Ms GILLARD —The question made assertions about dialogue with East Timor and the regional processing centre, and I have answered them. The question made assertions about the government’s detention policies, and I have answered them. The question also made assertions about dealing with unauthorised arrivals, and I say to the member, as I had cause to say in the parliament earlier this year, that this is a complex problem. I do not believe in three-word slogans, I do not believe in boat phone and I do not believe in the Prime Minister of the nation pretending that he or she is in a better position than a patrol boat commander to deal with a situation at sea. What I do believe in is working through dialogue on a regional protection framework and regional processing centre, and the government is doing precisely that.