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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Page: 6256

Mr KEENAN (Stirling) (16:11): I know it is a longstanding practice for people to ask ministers these Dorothy Dixers—I am not having a go at these two particular ministers, because I know it has been happening in here for a long time—but it does strike me as passing strange that these two Commonwealth ministers cannot answer questions for an hour without us having to go through this rather elaborate farce. This is not a practice that I will be pursuing should the government change and I get the opportunity to serve in that capacity.

I think my question is probably best addressed to the Minister for Home Affairs. I want to ask specifically about arrangements in relation to the Malaysian people swap deal, if it does go ahead, and the role the AFP might play in making sure that there is security on flights from Christmas Island to Kuala Lumpur or some other point within Malaysia. I want to see whether the minister can explain what actions would be taken or what protocols would be put in place if detainees refuse to get on the plane or stage a protest in response to being sent to Malaysia.

I also want to remind the minister about the events surrounding the Oceanic Viking.

Mr Brendan O'Connor: Don't remind me!

Mr KEENAN: It is interesting that the minister does not need reminding! As members will recall, the asylum seekers refused to take instructions from the Customs officers who were in charge of that vessel. What transpired was a stand-off, with the Indonesian authorities refusing to act and the Australian authorities refusing to act. Clearly it would be a deeply unsatisfactory situation if that were to happen again in relation to a flight from Christmas Island to Kuala Lumpur when detainees are either embarking or disembarking.

Minster, how many AFP officers will the government allocate for the transfer of asylum seekers on those flights? Who will be responsible for security on those flights? Presumably it will be officers of the AFP. When will Malaysian authorities take responsibility for security? At what stage will the Australian Federal Police hand over to their Malaysians counterparts? Presumably, it will be once the planes have landed in Malaysia. If there is a stand-off on a plane and asylum seekers refuse to disembark, whose responsibility will it be to end that stand-off? Will it be the responsibility of the Australian Federal Police—if they are the ones accompanying the asylum seekers—or will it be the Malaysian authorities because this will be occurring on their soil? And I want to know what guarantees the Malaysians authorities will give that they will treat detainees in a humane manner in these circumstances. I think that just about covers it. Essentially, I want to know at what stage the Malaysians will take over and what guarantees we have about their behaviour in these circumstances.