House debates

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Questions without Notice

Asylum Seekers

2:53 pm

Photo of Kelly O'DwyerKelly O'Dwyer (Higgins, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. Can the minister confirm that the total increase in the refugee and humanitarian program over the next four years will be entirely filled by people arriving illegally by boat? Why is the government allowing 25,000 people who have arrived illegally by boat in the last financial year to fill the increases in our refugee and humanitarian program and, in so doing, take the places of those waiting offshore in refugee camps?

2:54 pm

Photo of Brendan O'ConnorBrendan O'Connor (Gorton, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the honourable member for her question. Firstly, this government is very happy with the fact that we are able to increase the humanitarian program places to 20,000. That is a 50 per cent increase, the largest increase in humanitarian program places in 30 years from 13,750 to 20,000. We have increased the offshore assessments as well as those onshore, so it is completely wrong of the honourable member to suggest that there would not be an increase of offshore assessments because of our increase to the 20,000. Effectively, your question is wrong. We have increased the offshore processing. We do that because, of course, we want to deter people from endangering their lives by getting on unseaworthy vessels. That was the recommendation of the expert panel and that recommendation was opposed by those opposite.

With respect to the 20,000 places: the Leader of the Opposition opposed the 20,000 places, then he supported the 20,000 places, then he opposed it, and then he supported it again because he wanted to stop one of his members from crossing the floor. As soon as he managed to convince them not to cross the floor, he then opposed it again. That is pretty much the way in which the opposition leader deals with these matters, which is entirely cynical when it comes to providing humanitarian places for people seeking asylum. We as a government are very proud of the fact that we are providing opportunities for genuine asylum seekers to be provided the haven they are seeking from persecution. Just to repeat: the question is wrong; the premise is wrong. We are to increase the offshore program places and we will continue to do that because that is the way in which we will deter people getting on unseaworthy vessels.