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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Page: 2718

Senator THISTLETHWAITE (New South WalesParliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs and Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs) (10:56): The government is implementing appropriate transparency and monitoring arrangements in line with the recommendations of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers. As the minister has said on previous occasions, the process of designating regional processing countries, which can be disallowed by the parliament, provided the opportunity for parliament to scrutinise the arrangements that we were putting in place. It included the requirement to place before both houses of parliament a range of documents relating to regional processing arrangements, such as why it is in the national interest, advice from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and arrangements in relation to the treatment of persons.

There are now a range of other mechanisms in place to support the objectives of transparency. For example, access to regional processing centres has been granted to the UNHCR and other human rights organisations and observers and, indeed, Australian politicians, and there is regular public reporting in relation to regional processing arrangements, including through mechanisms such as Senate estimates hearings. Additionally, Australia is working closely with regional processing countries to establish advisory arrangements as specified in the memoranda of understanding. An interim joint advisory committee has been established for Nauru, and we continue to work closely with PNG to develop similar arrangements. The government sees the oversight mechanisms as important in ensuring transparency of operations and policy.

I note that part of the committee's recommendations included reporting on health, education and accommodation arrangements in centres. In addition to a range of oversight arrangements in place, there are also a number of established quality assurance and reporting mechanisms for health, education and accommodation. These include treating transferees with dignity, respect and integrity, building an environment that supports security and safety, improving health and wellbeing outcomes for transferees, interacting with transferees in a culturally sensitive way, reflecting human rights principles through the provision of services and facilities, and ensuring the best interests of the child are taken into account.