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Asylum Seekers

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (14:23): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Carr. My question relates to comments made by Minister Bowen back in August 2006. He told the House:
We say that asylum seekers should be treated the same regardless of how they land. We say they should be dealt with fairly, swiftly and on Australian soil.
Now we have Mr Abbott and the opposition pushing for any third country to be a signatory to the refugee convention, although of course in 2001 Nauru was not one. They worry about protections, yet are happy to send people back to sea. When will the government accept that the Australian people want to see genuine leadership and want an end to this rank hypocrisy?

Senator CARR (Victoria-Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) (14:23): I thank Senator Hanson-Young for her question. I can indicate that the Prime Minister has made the position of the government very clear on this matter. The government intends to pursue our legislation through the parliament. The government is of the view that this is the right balance between legal certainty for offshore processing and the protection for asylum seekers. The government takes the view-

Senator Brandis: Why don't you try offshore processing at the only place it actually worked?

Senator CARR: Lord Brandis, why don't you listen? You might learn something. It is the right plan to stop desperate people-
Opposition senators interjecting-

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Hanson-Young is entitled to hear the answer in silence.

Senator CARR: The Prime Minister has made it perfectly clear that the government's view is that this is the right plan to stop desperate people getting on boats and risking their lives. I know those opposite are determined to wreck the offshore processing arrangements and they have quite clearly identified what their political strategy is. The legislation will be assessed-
Opposition senators interjecting-

The PRESIDENT: Order! If you wish to debate the issue-

Senator Cormann: You have a strong track record-

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cormann! I am in the process of seeking order in this chamber so that we can listen to the answer. If you disagree with what the minister is saying then the appropriate time to do that is post three o'clock.

Senator CARR: The government is of the view that this legislation is appropriate and it is appropriate that the minister be required to have regard to whether a country has given Australia assurances on two key protection issues-that is, firstly, the nonrefoulement, that no genuine refugee will be returned to a country they have fled; and, secondly, that there will be access to a refugee assessment process. In essence, the government's position is to entrench in law arrangements whereby we consider whether a country will provide the protection under the key tenets of the refugee convention. The government is determined to pursue these questions and, to answer Senator Hanson-Young's question directly, we have no intention of resiling from that position.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (14:26): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. It seems as though hypocrisy still reigns. My question is in relation to what the Prime Minister said today. This morning the Prime Minister said that Nauru would waste billions of dollars. How many billions of dollars will be saved by dumping offshore processing and instead assessing the claims of asylum seekers, in the words of the minister himself, 'fairly, swiftly and on Australian soil'?

Senator CARR (Victoria-Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) (14:27): The government has made it perfectly clear that we are pursuing a policy to ensure that we actually break the criminal syndicates that are seeking to take advantage of people's suffering and we are seeking to do all we can to stop the boats arriving. We want to ensure that there are appropriate offshore arrangements that will provide sufficient deterrence for those who would ply the trade. The government do not resile from the position it has put. As far as we are concerned, there is no issue that Nauru would not be a satisfactory destination for that type of processing, that there would in fact be-
Opposition senators interjecting-

The PRESIDENT: Order! I need silence on my left. There are 31 seconds left.

Senator CARR: It is quite clear that the operational costs for Nauru-
Honourable senators interjecting-

The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind senators that if you wish to debate it, the time for that is three o'clock.

Senator CARR: Operating Nauru would be in the order of $980 million over four years-just operational expenses alone. That clearly would be an extraordinary- (Time expired)

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (14:29): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Will the government end this undignified squabble and now consider heeding the advice of the High Court to stick by our international obligations and process all asylum seeker claims here, onshore, as the majority of Australians would support?

Senator CARR (Victoria-Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) (14:30): That is not the presentation of the High Court's decision that the government would agree with. Clearly, the High Court made a judgment based on the existing law. The government is seeking to amend the existing law to take into account our commitments to the human rights convention, specifically to give legal force to those commitments. And we are seeking assurances from countries such as Malaysia to enforce those commitments, such as nonrefoulement, and to ensure that we have access to proper refugee assessment pro-cesses. That is the core of our amendments, which have been presented to the parliament, and we look forward to each and every member and senator casting their views on those amendments.

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