Asylum Seekers

Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (14:37): My question is to the Minister for Home Affairs, Minister for Justice and Minister for Defence Materiel. Will the minister update the House on the search-and-rescue operation conducted by the Royal Australian Navy yesterday? What policies are needed to stop this happening again?

Mr CLARE ( Blaxland — Minister for Home Affairs, Minister for Justice and Minister for Defence Materiel ) ( 14:38 ): I thank the member for Moreton for his question. Yesterday another boat sank and more people died. At 9:30 pm yesterday, the search-and-rescue effort was suspended. The advice of Border Protection Command is that there were 134 people on the boat. One hundred and thirty lives were saved—113 men, three women, 12 boys and two girls. The body of one person who died has been recovered; three more have not been found.

Yesterday, as we were debating here in this chamber, there were reports of another vessel that was in distress some 20 nautical miles off the coast of Indonesia. I am advised that this appears to have been a false alarm. Late yesterday, at about 10:30 pm, another boat arrived, carrying another 100 people who put their lives at risk trying to get to Australia. They arrived safely, but in the last 12 months more than 300 people have not been so lucky. Two hundred people died in December; 11 died in February; 90 died last week; four died yesterday. We can stop this.

Yesterday the debate here was about Malaysia or Nauru; today the debate is about whether we do both or whether we do nothing. It is not good enough when people are dying to just vote no. We have made compromises, and it is time for the opposition to do the same. We have made compromises—

Opposition members interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): Order! The minister has the call.

Mr CLARE: We are all taught when we are young that, if there is an ambulance with its sirens on, we have to move; that we have to change lanes—

Mr Dutton interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Dickson will leave the chamber under 94(a).

The member for Dickson then left the chamber—

Mr CLARE: and give a bit of ground. It is on its way to an emergency and, if we let the ambulance through, it can save lives. That is what the opposition needs to do today—let the bill through to save lives.