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Thursday, 17 June 2010
Page: 5820


Mr McCLELLAND (Attorney-General) (10:19 AM) —I thank the honourable members for their questions. I went through details of movements to Leonora and to Curtin, and obviously the northern detention centre in Darwin has also been opened. I indicated that a number of families have been placed in other locations in Brisbane and Sydney. Obviously there is an issue occurring now with irregular maritime arrivals coming to Australia. The government has strategies in place to deal with those arrivals, in anticipation that there will be additional arrivals.

Clearly, the government have devoted considerable resources to developing cooperative intelligence arrangements with our neighbours, including coordinating the intelligence in the home affairs unit and specifically in the Customs and Border Protection Service. Obviously there is an anticipation of additional boats seeking to enter Australian waters, and steps are being taken in that regard. However, the circumstances and the predictions as to how they are going to pan out over a longer term period are obviously dependent on a number of factors. In that respect, the planning, as I understand it, is taken on the basis of developing contingency arrangements with the officers of his department to identify potential locations. Given that we have imposed a freeze on the processing of people from Afghanistan and also from Sri Lanka, there will be a need to accommodate those people during the course of the freeze. The minister’s department is taking advice and examining alternative places of detention, and accommodation in the case of families. But, necessarily, there is no specific number given the circumstances that can impact on, firstly, those seeking to arrive in Australia and, secondly, the response once they arrive in Australia.

In that context, and in answering a question from the member for Shortland, I indicate that the government have taken very strong measures. I think I said this the other day in the House. Our policy is one of excision of offshore islands, mandatory detention of persons for the purposes of checking their immigration and their identity, and of conducting security and health assessments. We also have compulsory return of those found not to be seeking asylum. The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship recently indicated that there has been in the order of a 40 per cent rejection rate of asylum claims from persons from Afghanistan. Clearly, we anticipate that at the conclusion of the suspension of the processing of those persons from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, updated information from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and from in-country information will mean that more of those applications will be rejected.

The government do not believe the opposition’s policy of introducing temporary protection visas will work. I think the history speaks for itself in that respect. There was a significant increase after that was introduced in 1999. Nor do we think the Pacific solution will be effective. We saw that 70 per cent of the people who were part of that were returned. In particular, the Pacific solution introduced by the former government was based on what was effectively indefinite detention on Nauru and Manus Island. I ask the opposition: do they intend, as part of their reintroduction of third-country processing, that there will be indefinite detention on those places or do they intend to process claims within a specified time limit?