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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 2043

Asylum Seekers

Mr TRUSS (Wide BayLeader of The Nationals) (14:40): My question is to the Prime Minister. I remind the Prime Minister of the revelation by the former foreign minister:

… decisions … were taken, in my absence … and then announced and implemented … without my knowledge, in the case of … the Malaysia solution … and then off they went only to discover they didn’t work.

Why was the foreign minister not consulted and why was a cabinet decision announced and implemented without his knowledge on a matter which so obviously impacted on Australia's relationship with Malaysia?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:41): There were proper cabinet processes in relation to this matter and we operate a proper cabinet government. Because we operate a proper cabinet government, we are able to assess the policy merits of various proposals. That is why, for example, we will never agree to the opposition's policy proposal to put the lives—

Mr Dutton interjecting

The SPEAKER: The Prime Minister will resume her seat. I require the member for Dickson to withdraw the statement he just made when he asked the Prime Minister: 'Was she lying?'.

Mr Dutton: Mr Speaker, I am happy to withdraw, but I made no such accusation. I said to the Prime Minister, 'Is he lying?' I made no such accusation of her.

The SPEAKER: I accept the assurance of the honourable member. The Prime Minister has the call.

Ms GILLARD: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Because of proper assessment of policy proposals we will never join the opposition in putting the lives of ADF personnel at risk at sea in pursuit of their so-called 'turn the boats back' policy. It has been rejected by senior officers of the ADF as unsafe and risky and the Leader of the Opposition should not stand by it.

The SPEAKER: The Prime Minister will resume her seat. I gather the honourable member for Fadden is deferring to his leader.

Mr Robert: Of course, Mr Speaker. I have respect for my leader as opposed to those opposite.

Mr Abbott: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: the Prime Minister has accused the opposition of putting the lives of ADF personnel at risk. This is a deeply offensive suggestion—

Government members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The leader will resume his seat until the House is entirely silent when he will be given the call. He is making a point which I need to consider.

Mr Abbott: The Prime Minister claimed, just a few moments ago, that the opposition has deliberately put the lives of ADF personnel at risk. She agrees that that is the claim she has made. That claim is deeply offensive and she should be required to withdraw.

The SPEAKER: I do not consider what the Prime Minister said to be disorderly insofar as she expressed a view that actions of the opposition were putting the lives of ADF personnel at risk. However, having said that, I am keen to see more civility in the chamber and I would ask the Prime Minister would she assist the House by rephrasing the form of the words she previously used.

Ms GILLARD: What I am doing is endorsing the words of Vice Admiral Ray Griggs when he pointed to the risks of turning boats around. He is a man who would know. It follows that if you are putting people at risk at sea you are putting their lives in danger. I am saying that that is the policy the opposition will take to the next election. Of course, the—

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. The Prime Minister was asked why the foreign minister was not consulted about the Malaysian people swap. She was not asked about anything else and she should answer that question.

The SPEAKER: The Prime Minister will be directly relevant.

Ms GILLARD: On the question I was asked there was a proper cabinet process. We work in accordance with proper cabinet processes and of course we have been prepared to deal with the opposition in a spirit of goodwill of getting legislation through the parliament. We have been repudiated on that because they have no attachment to the national interest. In this parliament I have pointed to the words of the Chief of Navy on the question of the risks of turning back boats.

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:46): Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question of the Prime Minister. We know exactly what the former foreign minister said. He said that he was not consulted and that cabinet processes did not work in this case. Is the Prime Minister saying that the former foreign minister is being deceptive?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:47): I understand that it is the approach of the opposition to come into this place and throw insults. I have answered the opposition's policy. The matter of substance here is how to deal with border security and border protection, and the biggest matter of substance in relation to that is whether or not you have a plan to put at risk the lives of ADF personnel. The opposition does.