House debates

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Questions without Notice

Asylum Seekers

2:47 pm

Photo of Jason WoodJason Wood (La Trobe, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs. Will the minister update the House on the status of people subject to the regional processing arrangements in Nauru? How is the government managing this issue?

Photo of David ColemanDavid Coleman (Banks, Liberal Party, Minister for Immigration) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for his question. In addressing this issue it's important to put the matter into some context. Australia has one of the most substantial refugee and humanitarian programs in the world. This program year we will welcome 18,750 people to Australia on humanitarian visas. Per capita, we're one of the most generous nations in the world. In fact, among the major developed nations, only Canada is comparable. Secure borders are fundamental to an orderly humanitarian program. Without secure borders we lose the capacity to make choices about the composition and nature of our humanitarian program.

I remind the House that, in relation to Nauru, there are 65 medical professionals contracted by the Australian government there, including 33 mental health professionals. I would also like to amend an answer I gave yesterday in relation to the total number of transferees on Nauru. The correct figure is 608, somewhat less than the figure of 635 which was provided to me yesterday. Those transferees on Nauru have the same ability to move around the island as the other 10,000-plus residents of Nauru. They are not in detention. In addition, numerous refugees in Nauru are employed in a variety of occupations and a number have started businesses there.

This government will never allow Australia's immigration policies to go back to the humanitarian catastrophe that was wrought by those opposite when they were in office—50,000 people arrived and, tragically, 1,200 people died at sea, including children. We will never know how many children perished, but we do know that we must never allow the evil trade of people smugglers to start again. We know that Labor forcibly placed 8,000 children into detention during its time in government. In June 2010, they opened the Curtin Immigration Detention Centre in WA. By July 2013, the flow of boats was such that 1,687 people were detained at that centre that Labor opened. In June of that year, 114 children were confined behind its fences. And it wasn't just there. In December 2011, the Labor government opened the Wickham Point immigration detention centre. By May 2013, 1,988 people were confined in that centre. In August 2013—and this is a very important point—in the dying days of the Labor government, there were 409 children confined in Wickham Point Detention Centre.

They opened the Christmas Island detention centre; we closed it. We stopped the boats, we got the children out of detention and we closed the overflowing immigration detention centres. And we did all this while running a generous humanitarian program matched by very few countries in the world. We will never go back to the Labor Party's approach to this area.