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Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Page: 12489

Asylum Seekers

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:00): My question is to the Acting Prime Minister. I remind him that, since the present government reversed the previous border protection laws, there have been 12,942 boat arrivals on more than 250 boats. There are 4½ thousand people currently in detention, including 440 children, and two boats that we know of have been lost at sea with tragic loss of life. Can the Acting Prime Minister inform the House what immediate steps the government will now take to stop the boats?

Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:01): The first point is to acknowledge the tragedy which has occurred off Indonesia and the tragic loss of life. That is why we on this side of the House have been so determined to break the people smugglers' model and to do it through genuine regional engagement, to send a message to the people smugglers that their model is broken and it will not work. That is why the government has been so intent in putting together this regional solution. That is why it was such a shame and a tragedy that the legislation that we needed to put in place because of the High Court decision has not been able to pass this parliament, because that is the only measure that can be taken to break the people smugglers' model.

Those opposite are not interested in genuine solutions to this problem. For our part, we extend to them again an invitation to come to this House with good heart and acknowledge that we need a regional solution to stop the boats from coming. They have been advised by all of our senior advisers that the approaches they are putting forward will not work. For our part, we remain committed to a genuine regional solution. The Malaysian arrangement is precisely the sort of humanitarian arrangement that is required to ensure that we break that model. Until we break that model, we will see tragic deaths at sea. I happened to be Acting Prime Minister last December when that boat hit Christmas Island. I will never forget that day. That is one of the reasons that we are so keen to break the people smugglers' model and put in place a regional arrangement that deals properly with this matter so we can save lives.

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:03): Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question of the Acting Prime Minister. If, as the Acting Prime Minister has just informed the House, it is so important that the Malaysia people swap be put into effect, will the government immediately bring before the parliament for a vote the people swap legislation?

Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:04): We will bring it before the House when they vote for it.

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The House will come to order both on my left and on my right!