Monday, 16 November 2009
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to comments made by his Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Evans, about resettlement of asylum seekers who have disembarked from the Oceanic Viking: ‘I would expect us to be taking the larger proportion of the group.’ I next refer the Prime Minister to his own comments made on radio 3AW:
The United Nations High Commissioner for refugees, working with us and working with the other resettlement countries, could send these individuals to any particular country, and we do not know where that would occur at this stage.
Prime Minister, is Australia taking the larger proportion of the group or not?
The member for Murray struggles today on this one. The bottom line is that when it comes to resettlement arrangements, as I have said consistently and as the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship has said consistently and as the Minister for Foreign Affairs has said consistently—and as it applied under those opposite when they were in government—there is a collective responsibility across all 16 resettlement countries. It has been so since the earliest days of the operation of the UNHCR convention back in the 1950s. That is the operation under which we conduct ourselves. We think it is the right way to go. These things will be resolved as appropriate with the UNHCR.
We have full confidence in the way in which our officials are handling these matters. We have a border protection committee in the cabinet, chaired by the minister for immigration, which is meeting on a regular basis not simply concerning this particular vessel but against the entire range of challenges in the archipelago, including the large number of interruptions that I referred to before. It is chaired by the minister and has a national security adviser on it and also representatives of the various ministries and agencies and representatives of staffs, who are in there all the time working through the detail of this, as it should be.