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Gillard flounders on 'regional' processing centre

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The Hon Julie Bishop, MP  Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs  Deputy Leader of the Opposition  Member for Curtin 

Gillard flounders on 'regional' processing centre 25/10/10

The Prime Minister continued to flounder in Question Time today with her inability to define even the most basic concepts surrounding her proposed regional framework for asylum seekers and regional processing centre for East Timor.

Last week, she described the regional framework as applicable to the “Asia Pacific region”.

In Question Time today, the Prime Minister ridiculed suggestions that other countries would send asylum seekers to her proposed regional processing centre, which was in direct contradiction to recent comments by the Minister for Immigration.

“We have a lot of asylum seekers through the Asia-Pacific region and a lot of asylum seekers seeking to get to various countries, and the regional processing centre would need to have an agreed framework for choosing the case load that was sent there by Australia and potentially other nations.” (Chris Bowen - ABC Lateline, 13/10/2010)

The Secretary of the Department of Immigration last week in Senate Estimates defined the region as the member countries of the Bali Process, which includes Iran and Pakistan. The UNHCR states there are more than two million Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan.

Given the large number of displaced people in the region and beyond, it is vital that the Prime Minister defines the membership of her regional framework and the definition of asylum seekers eligible for transfer to the proposed regional processing centre.

The Prime Minister also claimed a superior knowledge of geography in terms of her knowledge of the region, however this claim is undermined by her comments in July this year when she confused Nauru with East Timor.

"I don't want to stop boats at sea, I want to stop them leaving shore and setting sail in the first place. That's why I outlined my plans for a regional processing centre and why we commenced the dialogue with Nauru." (Julia Gillard - AAP, 29/7/2010)