House debates

Monday, 8 February 2016

Questions without Notice

Asylum Seekers

1:59 pm

Photo of Bill ShortenBill Shorten (Maribyrnong, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. We all agree that Australia cannot let people languish on Nauru and Manus indefinitely. Can the Prime Minister update the House on efforts to secure a credible resettlement arrangement in other countries for asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru and Manus Island?

2:00 pm

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question, and I can assure him and all honourable members that the government is determined to deal with those people on Manus and Nauru that arrived during the period of the Labor government's abandoning the very effective border protection policies of the Howard era.

The Labor government, of which he was part, consciously abandoned policies that had worked—that had ensured that, at the time John Howard ceased to be Prime Minister, there was not one child in detention; that had ensured that the people smugglers' business model had been broken. In this chamber in 2009, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd argued that the Howard government's policies should be abandoned, and he said that the Howard government's policies—our domestic border protection arrangements—were irrelevant. He said the only thing that drove the rate of people smugglers—the only thing that drove the rate of unauthorised arrivals—was the push factors; the external factors in the Middle East, in Central Asia, in Africa and so forth. And we argued back in our turn that the push factors were doubtless very significant but they were always enormous, and that the real issue, the real factor, the critical element, was whether we had a secure policy to protect our borders. And, well, we lost that argument. Labor had the numbers. And then we saw what happened—50,000 arrivals, over 1,200 people drowned at sea who we know about; doubtless there were more whose tragedies are unknown, at least to us. And so we came back into office—

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Moreton is now warned.

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

and we restored the policies of the Howard government, and once again they worked. But we inherited a number of people on Manus Island and Nauru from the period when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, in his brief return to office before the 2013 election, overturned his own government's policies. We are working to ensure they return to their countries of origin or are settled in other countries, in third countries, as quickly as we can. It is not easy, but we are endeavouring to do that. We are working hard to do that. But I can say one thing: we will not abandon our commitment to keeping the high seas safe, to keeping our borders secure, and to ensuring that our policies have integrity and security.

The SPEAKER: Just before I call the member for Brisbane, I refer members interjecting to my statement on Thursday at about 2.15 about continuous interjecting. The member for Griffith, the member for Sydney, and the member for Moreton I mentioned last week. I again give fair warning. I will not tolerate continual interjections. The member for Moreton has been warned; it is his final warning. If he interjects again today, he will be out under 94(a). I call the member for Brisbane.