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Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Page: 9885

Asylum Seekers

Mr VASTA (Bonner) (14:48): My question is to the Prime Minister. How can the Prime Minister claim that the Malaysia solution, with its 800-person ceiling, is an effective deterrent to people smuggling when a thousand asylum seekers have arrived since the Malaysia deal was announced and 400 have arrived since it was signed?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:48): I thank the member for his question. I claim it on the basis of expert advice, but I do not ask the member to agree with me on that. That is not the point, and no amount of screaming and shouting by the opposition frontbench will change this fundamental fact. I do not ask the member who has asked the question, the member for Bonner, to agree with me on that; I do not ask him to accept the expert advice. I understand that the opposition is in a mode in the modern age where it trashes the view of every expert—scientists knocked aside, economists knocked aside, senior public servants treated with disrespect. I understand that is the present attitude of the opposition.

That is as it may be, and the opposition may choose to pursue a solution about people smuggling that is not recommended on the basis of expert advice. That is a matter for it. What is squarely before the member who asked the question and squarely before the Leader of the Opposition is not endorsing the government's arrangement with Malaysia—I do not seek that; I do not expect that. What I do expect is the opposition to join with the government to amend the Migration Act to put beyond legal doubt the ability of executive government to have processing offshore. That is what I expect.

In pursuit of that objective we have made briefings and advice available to the Leader of the Opposition from senior public servants. He has marched out the door and he has deliberately misconstrued what he has been told. We have made available to the Leader of the Opposition the advice of the Solicitor-General. He has misconstrued that in the parliament today. But, despite all of that, we will continue to provide advice and information to the Leader of the Opposition and we are specifically offering a briefing on the proposed legislation.

At some point the opposition is going to have to stop this kind of carry-on in question time and actually answer what in truth is a very simple question: will you vote for changes to the Migration Act that empower executive government to act and to implement its preferred solution and its preferred offshore processing arrangements? Will you do that? Won't you do that? No amount of carry-on in question time is going to get you away from that decision. That decision has to be made. And when it is made I trust that the Leader of the Opposition spends some time reflecting on the national interest rather than his narrow political interest, because most days the Leader of the Opposition can be negative and reckless without consequence but this is not one of those occasions. This is an occasion where negativity and recklessness would have a cost for our country.

Mr Laming interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Bowman!

Ms GILLARD: Our country should not have to pay that cost.

Mr Laming interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Bowman is warned!

Ms GILLARD: The Leader of the Opposition should instruct members of the Liberal Party and the National Party to vote in favour of this legislation and to vote in favour of the national interest, just for once.