Senate debates

Wednesday, 10 October 2012



9:31 am

Photo of Jacinta CollinsJacinta Collins (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the motion relating to designating the Independent State of Papua New Guinea as a regional processing country be called on immediately.

In moving this motion, please let me explain that it is procedural and, if passed, it will mean that the chamber will use government business time to consider the designation of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea as a regional processing country. The government considered that this designation is important and needs to be dealt with this week. To ensure this, additional government time will be provided with the passage of this motion. Until both houses of parliament have passed a resolution approving the designation of Papua New Guinea as a processing country, the government is unable to transfer people to Papua New Guinea. If not passed this week, transfers could not occur for another three weeks, or until 29 October.

Supplementing the existing offshore processing arrangements in Nauru with a processing facility in Papua New Guinea will discourage irregular and dangerous maritime voyages and thereby reduce the risk of loss of life at sea. The designation promotes the maintenance of a fair and orderly refugee and humanitarian program that retains the confidence of the Australian people. Designating Papua New Guinea as a regional processing country also promotes regional cooperation on irregular migration and people-smuggling and their undesirable consequences.

The designation of Papua New Guinea also satisfies recommendation 9 of the expert panel on asylum seekers, which recommended:

… a capacity be established in PNG as soon as possible to process the claims of IMAs—

irregular maritime arrivals—

transferred from Australia …

9:33 am

Photo of Sarah Hanson-YoungSarah Hanson-Young (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I just want to respond to the arguments put forward by the representing minister in relation to this motion. I find it astonishing that the government think they can come in here and say, 'Oh well; because we hadn't got our act together earlier, we now need to rush this through the parliament today, because otherwise we won't have the designation done until 29 October.' We know what happened last time we saw this government rush through the designation for Nauru. It was rushed through and we started sending people to Nauru before the contracts were even signed with the service providers.

This chamber has called on the government to deliver those signed contracts—to lay them on the table. They have only managed to lay two. The main contracts for the service provider, Transfield Services, who will run these facilities, have not been put on the table.

We were told they could not be put on the table because they were not completed and were not signed, yet here we have the government today saying we must rush this through the parliament, we must tick off on it despite the fact that the details given in the designation do not cover all of the things that the Houston report says must be included in order to allow parliament to make an informed decision around these issues. What we see happening here is another attempt to botch the process. We have done with Nauru and we are about to do it again with Manus Island.

We can debate the merits of the designation itself when we come to that but the fact that the government want to hijack the rest of the parliamentary chamber time to deal with something they do not even have the details on—they have not even bothered to do their homework and get everything together—well, frankly, that is their problem. There is enough evidence out there to suggest that unless we fix the problems that happened in how we ran detention centres on Manus Island last time, the horrors that existed then and the pain and suffering that was inflicted on genuine refugees then these problems will happen all over again. And all we hear from the government this morning is: regardless, putting all that aside; we just want it rushed through. Frankly, it is just not good enough.

Photo of Alan FergusonAlan Ferguson (SA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the motion moved by Minister Collins be agreed to.