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Monday, 16 November 2009
Page: 11666

Mr TURNBULL (2:17 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister, and I refer to the two documents that he has just tabled. The first is the document which is headed ‘Message to the 78 passengers on the Oceanic Viking’ and states in item 1:

If UNHCR has found you to be a refugee—Australian officials will assist you to be resettled within four to six weeks from the time you disembark the vessel.

I also refer him to the letter from the Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to the minister, dated today, which states in the passage he quoted:

The group is being treated in a manner consistent with that afforded to any other asylum seeker or refugee in Indonesia.

My question to the Prime Minister is: given the statement in that letter, how many other refugees in Indonesia found to be so by the UNHCR will be resettled in Australia within four to six weeks?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —I thank the honourable member for his question. The first thing I would say about the document he refers to, which is signed by the Minister-Counsellor for Immigration, the Australian Embassy, Jakarta, is that my advice—though I have been out of the country for some days—is that it has been in the public domain for some time. The question refers to paragraph 1 in the document, which is one of three conditionalities: the first is if the UNHCR has found an individual to be a refugee, the second is if they have already registered with UNHCR but their status has not been determined and the third is if they have not yet registered with UNHCR and their status is yet to be determined. It prescribes a general overall approach of different time frames between the first and the second and third categories, one of four to six weeks and the other of around 12 weeks.

The honourable gentleman then referred in his question to the letter from the secretary of the department of immigration to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship today. Again, the introduction to that is:

I would like to confirm the following matters regarding the procedure and other arrangements applying to the group.

The secretary of the department goes on to say:

The group is being treated in a manner consistent with that afforded to any other asylum seeker or refugee in Indonesia.

The further dot point which is in the letter which I referred to before says, and it goes specifically to the question of time frames—that is what the honourable member has asked about:

The Indonesian government and the Australian government have agreed to a set of arrangements regarding the time frames for the processing of the group in Indonesia, consistent with international practice and resettlement procedures.

In other words, there is nothing remarkable about the time frames. Therefore, we can act on the basis of the advice of the secretary of the department. He has provided us with that advice, and therefore the government, in seeking to resolve this complex matter and other complex immigration matters, will do so according to normal procedures, as confirmed by the secretary’s advice contained in this letter today.