House debates

Monday, 23 November 2009

Questions without Notice

Asylum Seekers

2:10 pm

Photo of Sussan LeySussan Ley (Farrer, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Justice and Customs) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister inform the House: what is the capacity of the Christmas Island detention centre and how many asylum seekers are currently in the detention centre? Will the Prime Minister also inform the House when he expects the Australian government will have to start processing asylum seekers on the mainland, at Darwin?

Photo of Kevin RuddKevin Rudd (Griffith, Australian Labor Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the honourable member for her question. First of all, my advice is that we have 1,188 people accommodated there. Second, the capacity of the centre as it currently stands is 1,400. I am further advised that the department of immigration has recently sourced some 70 demountables to increase capacity further—I understand, by some 200 beds—by the end of December. I also understand that the department is exploring additional measures to increase capacity should that be required in the future. I also say to the honourable member in response to her question that, on the 10-hectare site available, the advice of the department is that there is room for that to occur.

The second part of the honourable member’s question goes to the processing of individuals on the mainland. I say to the honourable member that our policy is first and foremost mandatory detention; and, secondly, when it comes to the interdiction of vessels offshore, that we will seek to process those through mandatory detention on Christmas Island. As I have said already in answer to questions in this place, the immigration minister has already put on the record other contingency arrangements that have been put in place.

So far, in the time of this government, I am advised that one vessel has reached the Australian mainland. All others have so far been interdicted offshore. That is why they have all been processed on Christmas Island. In the period of the previous government, I am advised about 15 per cent of vessels in fact made it to the Australian mainland and brought about a different set of circumstances for the processing of vessels at that time.