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Government's Malsaysian Solution

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (14:30): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, Senator Carr. The Malaysian High Commissioner today declared that Australia cannot simply dictate which people will be sent to Malaysia under the Gillard government's Malaysian solution. Will the Malaysian government officials come to Australia to select which asylum seekers they will take or will it simply be conducted through paperwork? How will the Malaysian government decide who is sent to their country?

Senator CARR (Victoria-Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) (14:31): I thank the senator for her question. The government has announced that the Australian and Malaysian governments have committed to enter into a landmark transfer agreement under the regional cooperative framework and that this process undermines the efforts of people smugglers to seek to encourage people to undertake very risky journeys to Australia. This in fact is a new initiative to ensure that we are able to take all the necessary steps to highlight the extraordinary dangers of undertaking such a voyage and to indicate to people that this is a counterproductive move and is unlikely to produce the results that people are looking for in terms of finding settlement here, because people will be sent to Malaysia, from which many of them come originally, and will be placed at the back of the queue.
What we are seeing for the first time in these arrangements is that the UNHCR will be directly involved-

 

Senator Bob Brown: Mr President, I raise a point of order. The minister was asked directly whether Malaysian officials would come to Australia. The question needs to be answered directly as well.

Senator Ludwig: On the point of order, Mr President, Senator Carr has been answering the question. It is a complex issue to describe in detail but Senator Carr has been working through that detail quite specifically in dealing with the issue that he has been asked to respond to. I submit that there is no point of order in this respect.

 

The PRESIDENT: Senator Carr, I draw your attention to the fact that there is 50 seconds remaining on the clock to answer the question that has been asked by Senator Hanson-Young.

Senator CARR: I have indicated that for the first time the UNHCR will be involved in the processes involving the Malaysian government. The reports today that the Malaysian High Commissioner is wanting the right to refuse people entry are inaccurate and misleading. While the government cannot comment on the specifics of current diplomatic negotiations, the reports that appeared today are incorrect. What I would have thought the Greens would be particularly interested in is that, for the first time, the UNHCR is involved in terms of the Malaysian government, a point which the UNHCR Tuesday, have made and indicated is a matter of some significance to them. The public comments by their spokesperson have highlighted that fact. (Time expired)

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (14:34): Mr President, I have a supplementary question. Do we take it, then, that Malaysia will not refuse anybody who is sent to Malaysia under this agreement put forward by the Australian government?

Senator CARR (Victoria-Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) (14:34): I can indicate that I am advised that the reports today suggesting that the Malaysian High Commissioner is wanting the right to refuse people entry are inaccurate and misleading. While the government is not in a position to negotiate in public with the government of Malaysia, what I can say is that the reports published today are inaccurate. I remind the senator that UNHCR regional representative Richard Charles says that this is a bilateral agreement that has been negotiated within the broader regional cooperation framework with the involvement of the UNHCR, the involvement of the IOM, the International Organisation for Migration and, we hope, the involvement of other important actors as well, including non-government organisations. So it is an agreement between countries that are actively involved with refugee issues and that commonly face a refugee displacement problem. (Time expired)

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (14:35): My final supplementary question to the minister is, if Malaysia have not requested the ability to buy into the process of selecting who will be taken to Malaysia, what rights have they reserved and when will we see the signed MUA?

Honourable senators interjecting-

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: MOU. I have always been a unionist at heart. We know that the heart of the union movement is in the Greens.

Senator CARR (Victoria-Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) (14:36): I have made it perfectly clear that, on the advice that I have, the reports in today's press are inaccurate and misleading; that the government of Australia and the government of Malaysia will work towards achieving a new MOU and in the course of those negotiations will continue to work with the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration. These are major new initiatives, major new developments, in regard to the way the refugee conventions are being treated within our region. I would have thought that the Greens would acknowledge that and appreciate the very, very important and significant developments that have occurred.

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