Well, this is about the proposed (or has it been finalized?) agreement between Australia and Malaysia - whereby Australia was to sent to Malaysia about 800 asylum seekers currently in Australia seeking asylum in Australia, and in return Australia agreed to accept 1,000 UNHCR recognized refugees per year for 4 years for re-settlement in Australia.
It would have been good if a similar vote was also cast, where all MPs and Senators could vote on motions without being forced to vote according to what party whips tell them - irrespective of who tabled the motions. It would be good to know exactly the number of MPs/Senators/ADUNs who voted in favour, voted against and abstained with regard to each and every motion.
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Parliament condemns Govt on Malaysia asylum dealListen to MP3 of this story ( minutes)
ELEANOR HALL: But we go first today to Canberra, where the House of Representatives this morning passed a motion condemning the Federal Government over its plan to send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia.
Critically, it was the Greens MP Adam Bandt who proposed the motion, which was supported by the Coalition and the independents Andrew Wilkie and Bob Katter. But the Coalition Leader Tony Abbot challenged the Greens to take their objections to the deal one step further, and force the Government to change its policy.
In Canberra, Sabra Lane reports.
SABRA LANE: The Greens two-part motion was put to the House of Representatives this morning. It called for the condemnation of the proposed asylum deal and its immediate abandonment.
HARRY JENKINS: The result of the division is ayes 70, nos 68. The question is therefore resolved in the affirmative.SABRA LANE: The Senate had previously passed the motion. In this morning's vote, the Opposition voted in favour of it, with the independents Andrew Wilkie and Bob Katter. The Greens MP Adam Bandt introduced the motion into the House of Reps.
ADAM BANDT: Today is a significant day because for the first time in this Parliament, both Houses of Parliament have passed a motion condemning a policy decision taken by the Government. Use of the word condemn is strong and it is not a step that I took lightly to introduce this motion into the House.
SABRA LANE: The Opposition's immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison.
SCOTT MORRISON: Now, you'll have to check your history books but it has been some time I suspect that both Houses of Parliament have condemned a government policy in this way.
SABRA LANE: And he says Government MPs are guilty of hypocrisy.
SCOTT MORRISON: Those Labor members who have protested and condemned the Howard government for a decade, sat in their seats today glued there just not speaking up, not getting up, sitting silent.
SABRA LANE: But it's a non-binding motion, the Government can't be forced to abandon the policy.
The Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.
CHRIS BOWEN: Well, look the Greens and the Liberal Party have very different positions on this. Of course they have joined into a coalition of convenience this morning and that was well known, it was always going to be the case but if you asked the Greens and the Liberals to agree on a way forward or the Parliament to agree on a way forward, of course they wouldn't be able to. They are diametrically opposed.
SABRA LANE: But the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says Mr Bowen can't brush it off.
TONY ABBOTT: This is a government which if it persists with the Malaysian people swap, is acting in clear defiance of the Parliament. Now, we are in unchartered waters here. I suppose it is then up to Members and Senators to decide what further sanctions they wish to apply against the Government.
SABRA LANE: And he says if the Greens are serious about their Opposition, they should flex their muscles in their alliance with the Government.
TONY ABBOTT: If the Greens want to be taken seriously, it is not enough to move non-binding resolutions in the Parliament. They are going to have to force some changes on their alliance partner in government.
SABRA LANE: Again, Adam Bandt.
ADAM BANDT: Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has already indicated that she intends to introduce a bill into Parliament that will give the Parliament greater oversight of deals like this and would allow the Parliament to say the Malaysia deal was off and would allow the Parliament to say you cannot send people to a third country and so the test is going to be for the Coalition as to whether they are going to support that bill if they are serious about what they're saying.
SABRA LANE: Again the Opposition's immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison.
SCOTT MORRISON: We'll meet with the Greens but that matter yet hasn't been introduced. It hasn't been debated and there is not a schedule yet for it to be considered so when those things are clear, we'll form a view when the matter is considered in the Parliament.
SABRA LANE: And on ABC24, Mr Bowen warned the Coalition if that bill passes Parliament, this and future governments including the Coalition would have to abide by it.
CHRIS BOWEN: Neither would any other arrangement. If a future government tried to do something with Nauru in future for example, that wouldn't get through the Parliament anyway so we would say that we are using the powers given to us by the Parliament legitimately under the Migration Act.
SABRA LANE: Nearly six weeks ago, the Government announced its Malaysia plan, but it's still not signed.
It's been reported that Australian officials have travelled to Geneva to talk with the UNHCR about it. The Government says there's nothing unusual about that with Mr Bowen saying the agreement will be signed in weeks, once oversight measures have been agreed to.
CHRIS BOWEN: I must say, much more transparent and much more robust arrangements than say for example might have been in the case in Nauru where journalists weren't even allowed in and nobody was allowed in to monitor the arrangements and all this nonsense we hear from Mr Abbott and Mr Morrison about Nauru being more humane, I mean give me a break. I mean that is just complete nonsense and total hypocrisy on behalf of the Liberal Party.
ELEANOR HALL: And that is the Immigration Minister Chris Bowen ending that report by Sabra Lane in Canberra.