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Thursday, 27 March 2014
Page: 3413

Asylum Seekers

Mr WILKIE (Denison) (14:58): My question is to the Prime Minister. Currently, there are 315 children in prison-like facilities on Christmas Island—some for almost a year. According to the president of the Human Rights Commission, conditions are so bad that these kids have stopped talking and refer to themselves by number rather than by name. Prime Minister, when will this stop? When will Australian governments stop being responsible for such abuse of children?

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahPrime Minister) (14:58): I do thank the member for Denison for his question. I know that this is a subject that he takes very, very seriously. I know that this is a subject that we all take seriously. I accept the passion and the compassion that the member for Denison brings to this particular subject.

None of us want to see anyone in detention. We certainly do not want to see children in detention. I can inform the member for Denison that at the end of the Howard government era there were only four people in immigration detention who had arrived illegally by boat, and none of them were children. I regret to say that in the period between that time and this time more than 50,000 people arrived illegally in Australia by boat, including 8,000 children. I deeply regret the fact that so many people, including so many children, took this very dangerous journey. Let us be blunt. The reason that the boats started coming—

Mr Burke interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Watson will desist!

Mr ABBOTT: was that Labor and the Greens closed down the policies that had in the past stopped the boats.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: The Prime Minister will resume his seat. I realise it is Thursday afternoon, and there seem to be many on my left who want an early mark. I will be quite willing to help them have that early mark if we do not have some silence.

Mr ABBOTT: I am looking forward to the day when no-one is in immigration detention. That is the day I am looking forward to. The way to ensure that no-one is in immigration detention is to stop the boats. That is exactly what this government is doing. That is the way to ensure that never again do we need to put women, children and men in immigration detention because they have come illegally to this country by boat.

The boats are stopping. I am pleased to tell the member for Denison that four detention centres have already closed because of the good work of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, and there is more good work still to come.