Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer him to the interview with the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government on the ABC’s Lateline last night, in particular to the minister’s response to a question about whether the Australian government had a moral responsibility to ensure children aboard the Oceanic Viking would not be detained behind bars at the Tanjung Pinang detention centre. The minister’s answer was, ‘Well, Tony, what’s the moral issue?’ Will the Prime Minister guarantee that the children aboard the Oceanic Viking will not be detained behind bars?
I thank the opposition in particular for that question, which comes from the party of children behind razor wire. I thank the opposition in particular for raising a question from the party of ‘children overboard’. I thank the opposition in particular for the consistency of their moral purpose in asking questions of this nature. Could it be that again this question has a little bit to do with the overall politics of stereotyping which the digging dirt document refers to as well?
Mr Speaker, on a point of order: my question to the Prime Minister was whether he will guarantee that children aboard the Oceanic Viking will not be detained behind bars. Will he answer that question?
I recall in particular that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s question referred to moral issues and what I was seeking to respond to was the moral content or non-content of their policy on handling asylum seekers in the period that they were in office. As for the proper treatment of asylum seekers anywhere in the world, and including in Indonesia, we would expect that in consultation with the UNHCR and the IOM proper conditions are provided for the treatment of asylum seekers. We actually cooperate with the UNHCR, in fundamental contrast with the culture of noncooperation led by the member for Menzies and the member for Berowra in the past who prided themselves on sitting outside the framework of international—
Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister claimed that we did not cooperate with the UNHCR, which is a falsehood. So I am not sure how I am supposed to express the fact that it was a falsehood other than saying that it is—which it is, a lie. We did cooperate with the UNHCR, always.
Mr Speaker, a point of order under standing order 90: I regard the imputation of improper motives against the members for Menzies and Berowra as deeply offensive and I ask you to ask the Prime Minister to withdraw that imputation of improper motives.
The member for Oxley may as well sit down, because I am not willing to proceed with the House behaving in this manner. Thanks for proving my point—you just continue. I would hope that members would start to show a little bit more respect on a fairly sensitive issue over several parliaments.
Order! The Father of the House, by indicating that he knew that there were other avenues open to him, I thought had settled that point in time. Then several members engaged across the table in unwarranted debate. If you want to have a debate, find a mechanism to have the debate. This is question time. There are questions about things that have raised the emotions of members on both sides. I would have thought that that would ring some alarm bells for members on both sides to perhaps settle down a little bit.
I have ruled by not ruling at all. I simply say to several members in this place that, whilst I try to disregard the way in which people behave in other aspects of the way the House is operating, I just remind individuals that, if when they approach the dispatch box—give an inch, take a mile, then bounce up—they are seeking some cooperation at a delayed point, that cooperation might not be forthcoming. My ruling has been that the member for Berowra suggested that he would be taking an action, and I am satisfied that I will allow him at the appropriate time at the end of question time to take that action.