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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 2047

Asylum Seekers

Mr PYNE (SturtManager of Opposition Business) (14:59): My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to the statement by the minister for immigration following last year's federal Labor conference that the government would reintroduce the legislation to allow the Malaysian people swap. Has the Prime Minister asked the Leader of the House to list this bill for debate?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (15:00): In answer to the member's question, as the member probably knows from the discussions over summer, we entered into good-faith negotiations with the opposition in order to see us work together on legislation which would put this government and future governments in the same position as the former Howard government—that is, able to make appropriate arrangements for offshore processing. We actually said to the opposition, in that spirit of goodwill, that we would endorse their stated policy at that time, which was having a detention centre on Nauru, if they allowed us to then have the Malaysia arrangement implemented and we would work together on the appropriate legislative amendment. After days and days of discussions and comings and goings that the shadow minister was involved in and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was involved in, it became transparently clear—

Ms Julie Bishop interjecting

The SPEAKER: The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will remain silent.

Ms GILLARD: that the opposition participants in those discussions were not going to enter an arrangement with the government and that the opposition was not serious about the process, and we certainly knew that for sure when we read about it in the pages of the Australian

Mr Pyne interjecting

The SPEAKER: As will the honourable member for Sturt.

Ms GILLARD: and it had all been tipped out there publicly. So I say to the member who asked the question I understand that it is the policy of the opposition that they want to see more boats. I understand that, because that is their policy, they will oppose any legislation in this parliament.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER: Order! The Prime Minister will resume her seat. I advised the Manager of Opposition Business that he was to remain silent. I assume that by his comment to me from his seat he was trying to get to the dispatch box. I will ignore the fact that some would interpret him as defying my ruling. I will give him the call on a point of order.

Mr Pyne: I thank you, Mr Speaker. On a point of order, Mr Speaker, 600 asylum seekers have perished trying to get to Australia in the last several years under this government. The suggestion that we would be inviting more boats is deeply offensive. I ask her to withdraw it.

The SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

Mr Albanese: On a point of order, Mr Speaker, the Manager of Opposition Business is a particular offender but not the only one on that side of the chamber going to the dispatch box purportedly to move a point of order but in order to make a political point in debate. It is quite disorderly for the Manager of Opposition Business to do so, particularly under the circumstances in which he had been warned by you.

The SPEAKER: I have not issued a warning. What I have said is he is to remain silent. My interpretation is he started to seek to get my attention before he reached the dispatch box. I am sure he will not be as fast in the future. The Prime Minister has the call.

Ms GILLARD: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. So what is raised with me by the opposition is a question of process. What I am inviting them to put their attention on is a question of substance, acting in the national interest, and spectacularly to date in this area of policy—like all others—the opposition have failed to do so.