Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer the minister to Mr Laurie Oakes’s revelation last night that he opposed the Prime Minister’s East Timor detention centre policy, stating:
It will go off like a firecracker in East Timorese domestic politics.
Given that the foreign minister was right and the East Timorese parliament has passed at least two resolutions opposing the detention centre, why won’t the government drop this doomed proposal?
As I have said to this House before and elsewhere beyond the House, the reason the government—including the Prime Minister, the immigration minister and me—support a proposal for a regional processing centre in the context of a regional protection framework is that (1) it is compatible with the UN convention on refugees, (2) it is capable of attaining the support of the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration and (3) it has the support of regional countries. The honourable member raises that latter point in terms of the reaction from regional countries. I would draw her attention to the response by the President of East Timor to statements made by both the Prime Minister and the immigration minister concerning the East Timorese government’s reception to the Australian government’s proposal as a basis for further consultation, discussion and negotiation, including through the Bali process.
It is natural that in any country dealing with questions of asylum seekers democratic debates will occur. I would have thought that is natural and normal in this place—it is natural and normal in East Timor; it is natural and normal in Indonesia; it is natural and normal in any other country.
The government proceeds to support this policy because it is consistent with the three principles I enunciated before. I draw to the attention of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition the reason, for example, that Nauru fails this test and why the previous government ignored the convention. Nauru was not a signatory to the refugees convention. The UNHCR ceased to process asylum seekers on Nauru because of its concerns about the then government’s processing arrangements on Nauru. Therefore, the government’s approach then failed all basic humanitarian and international legal tests—tests which this government takes seriously and which form the basis of the government’s current approach to this challenge which faces not only us but other countries around the world.