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Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 11224

Asylum Seekers

Mr ABBOTT ( Warringah Leader of the Opposition ) ( 1 4:01 ): My question is to the Prime Minister. I remind the Prime Minister that a year ago she said that Labor had lost its way on border protection. Since then the government has had an East Timor policy, a PNG policy, a Malaysia policy, last Friday's version of amendments to the Migration Act and then Monday's version. So I ask the Prime Minister: once the Malaysian people swap reaches its limit of 800 people, what policy will the government pursue next?

Ms GILLARD ( Lalor Prime Minister ) ( 14 : 02 ): To the Leader of the Opposition I say the following: first and foremost, the government will always be committed to a strong border protection policy. The Leader of the Opposition today is filibustering debate on protecting our borders, despite the shadow minister saying that they would facilitate a debate with the government, so that he can send to people smugglers a message which says, 'Come on down.' The Leader of the Opposition today has made it very clear he is putting his political interest before the nation's interest.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! I invite members again to read standing order 65 and prepare their case around why they think that they can ignore it. The Prime Minister has the call.

Ms GILLARD: The Leader of the Opposition is ignoring the nation's interest. The nation's interest today requires that we deal expeditiously with the migration amendments which are before the parliament and that the legislation is passed so that the government can implement its arrangement with Malaysia and so executive government can have the power it needs to make appropriate arrangements for offshore processing. Instead of that, the Leader of the Opposition in this place is filibustering that debate; the Leader of the Opposition in this place is determined to defeat offshore processing; the Leader of the Opposition in this place is determined to see more boats landing on Australia's shores. When it comes to this debate it is incredibly clear that the only thing that has ever motivated the Leader of the Opposition is his narrow political interest. Well, the leadership questions that this nation faces are not about narrow political interest or about base political interest by the Leader of the Opposition; they are about answering the policy questions of our age responsibly, and that requires the Leader of the Opposition to work expeditiously on the debate before the House on the migration amendments and then to pass the government's amendments, not to wish for more boats arriving.

Mr ABBOTT ( Warringah Leader of the Opposition ) ( 1 4:04 ): Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question of the Prime Minister. How can the Prime Minister say that it is base politics to oppose he r Malaysian people swap when her Malaysian people swap was struck down by the High Court and is opposed by half her own party, including Senator Faulkner, one of the most principled men in this parliament?

Ms GILLARD ( Lalor Prime Minister ) ( 14 : 04 ): From the mouth of the Leader of the Opposition we hear John Howard's rallying cry—'We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come'—and changed it into a cruel joke. The Leader of the Opposition knows that the amendments that the government has brought to the parliament would enable the government to implement its preferred way of processing and dealing with asylum seekers and it would enable the opposition to do so as well if it were ever elected to government. It was put forward in good faith. It was put forward as common ground. It was put forward to restore to the executive the rights that it should have to make policy decisions about refugees and asylum seekers. I take it from the Leader of the Opposition that, contrary to Prime Minister Howard and contrary to the former minister for immigration, Philip Ruddock, he now believes that deciding asylum seeker policy in this country should not be in the hands of the executive government; it should be in the hands of the High Court.

I say to the Leader of the Opposition: I believe executive government should stump up and make these choices. They are difficult—they are not easy—but we stand here ready to implement a responsible plan which we have been given the strongest possible advice will create the maximum deterrence for people travelling to this country in leaky boats where they could lose their lives. Nothing, no amount of spin from the Leader of the Opposition, no amount of slogans, no amount of carry-on procedurally in this parliament and no amount of filibustering will ever change the basic fact here. The basic fact here is that, if you are to have strong border security, you must empower government to act. We seek that government have that power; the Leader of the Opposition seeks to deny that power to government because he is hoping in his heart of hearts that we see a lot more boats.