Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (14:08): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Evans. Will the government ensure that the letter and spirit of the refugee convention and of the Convention on the Rights of the Child are upheld in any future legislation to be presented to this parliament?
Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western Australia-Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:08): I can assure the senator that the government is absolutely committed to honouring its international obligations and they include those obligations under the refugee convention and also those under the rights of the child convention-I was going to say 'CROC' but it always sounds terrible: 'under CROC', the Convention on the Rights of the Child. So the government does remain committed to those. But the government also remains committed to addressing the scourge of people smuggling and taking positive action to try to undermine the business model that sees many people risk their lives in seeking refuge in Australia. Australia remains on a per capita basis, I think, the largest contributor to the settlement of refugees in the world. Not only do we take our obligation to uphold the convention and meeting the obligation of helping resettle people very seriously; Australia has, under governments of both persuasions, a very proud record in terms of resettlement of those found to be refugees. Senator, you point to two issues that are part of the current debate about how we respond to the challenge of people smuggling and respond to the recent High Court decision. The government is aware of its obligations under both that convention and the Convention on the Rights of the Child and will be honouring those and seeking to find policy solutions that continue to reflect our strong commitment to those international obligations and to enact a regional response that best attacks the scourge of people smuggling.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (14:10): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the government aware of the opinion poll today that shows 54 per cent-a majority-of Australians support onshore assessment of refugees?
Honourable senators interjecting-
The PRESIDENT: Order! I am waiting to give Senator Hanson-Young the right to have her question heard in silence.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can the government explain this poll and why does the government continue to ignore public opinion?
Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western Australia-Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:11): Can I indicate that I have also seen polls that show most Australians believe that the Martians have landed on the Earth at some stage. One has got to be careful about what polls one reads and what conclusions one draws from them.
Senator Joyce interjecting-
Senator CHRIS EVANS: Senator Joyce, there has been a suggestion that you might represent the progeny of that landing; there has been a suggestion to that effect but , of course, I could not possibly comment.
Honourable senators interjecting-
The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Evans, wait a moment and then I will give you the call. When there is silence on both sides we will proceed.
Senator CHRIS EVANS: The serious point to make is that there are a multitude of opinion surveys, polls, which generally reflect the views of those who have sought to commission them, in my experience. But, no, the government will not be determining its policy position based on this or any other polls. That is not the appropriate way of governing. This government will continue to pursue evidence based good public policy and we will make our decisions based on what we think are the right public policies to pursue.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (14:12): Mr President, my final question is on the issue of unaccompanied children. Does the government now accept that the minister for immigration has a conflict of interest in looking after the children he is a legal guardian for and in his role as immigration minister making decisions about whether to deport them or not?
Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western Australia-Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:13): I think I will take that question on notice in the sense of what the legal advice is following the High Court decision. I know that this is a subject of the decision and I have read reports of it but I have not read that section of the decision closely. I do not think
it is so much about a conflict of interest, but I think there are issues involved there which the High Court has commented on and obviously the government will respond to and bring any legislation before the parliament. I will not say any more than that because I do not have a brief as to the detailed consideration of that matter, but if I can get further information I will bring it back to the Senate.