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Wednesday, 14 March 2012
Page: 2903


Mr JENKINS (Scullin) (16:54): I have heard many matters of public importance but never before have I heard an MPI that has been mounted with so disjointed a case. We witnessed in question time today the build-up, which was about a successful police operation in the western suburbs of Sydney today. On closer examination, the Minister for Home Affairs indicated by way of his contribution to this debate and his contribution to the debate on the suspension of standing orders the cooperation that occurred between the Border Protection and Customs Service and the New South Wales police.

What those opposite have not done is to enter into debate in the national interest. They have entered a debate on base party-political grounds. Have a look at their contributions. I challenge people to go through the contributions of the opposition to this MPI and understand what it is that they are arguing. They argue about cuts to the budget of the Customs and Border Protection Service. They then indicate that in some mysterious way, if they were to regain the Treasury bench, they would reinstate these cuts. At the same time, the economic leadership of the coalition, if you can call it leadership, claims that they would make $70 billion more cuts. They have to get fair dinkum if they are wanting us to have a debate in the national interest. They go out there with the hidden agenda of cranking up this issue. We have honourable members talking about the 'missing guns'. It is all about 'stop the guns; stop the Glocks'—that is what they think this is about. But it is not about that. It is about explaining to people what has gone wrong.

The same member who came into this debate so authoritatively claiming that he has this number of guns missing actually related the terms of this MPI to terrorist threat. And he wants to come into this place and claim that this is a debate being conducted in the national interest. I tell you, Madam Deputy Speaker, people expect a lot better standard of debate in this place. They ask that we have a debate that is genuine, that is really about the national interest, that does not grab one police operation to be used for party-political purposes and that does not thoroughly explain to the Australian public what their alternative view is.

It must be hard for a shadow minister who has responsibility for a portfolio area, who is operating in the run-up to an election at which the opposition think they will put before the Australian public their vision as an alternative government, but who cannot be sure as a shadow minister that he can really talk about making reinstatements. In an environment where there will be more cuts, how could he? We go through all the different threads that have been used in this debate. We have had guns; we have had drive-by shootings in Western Sydney. As has been said by every government member in this matter of public importance, we deplore those incidents. What we deplore even more is the use of those occurrences for base political purposes. If we are serious about these matters, the discussions that we have here should be looking for solutions. The only thing arising from the reported actions that have been taken in Sydney today is that we have seen cooperation. We have seen some effort to minimise the way in which this sophisticated form of crime has operated.

There has been little in this debate from the member for Stirling and the member for Cook about what is actually happening. Because this matter refers to border protection, we have heard that the government has lost control of the borders. If you lose control of the borders the implication is that there are arrivals that we do not know about, that in some way illegal arrivals cannot be detected—and nobody is arguing that, are they? Is anybody arguing that, in fact, our borders are porous. They are especially not arguing that through those who arrive on boats. If those opposite want to have an argument of a different nature about people that come here by air holding a visa and overstay, well that is a different matter. But, no, we do not have debates about that. We will not have debates about that because of the question of whether that is a failure of border control. That is the failure of our ability to be able to investigate, amongst a majority of worthwhile and genuine cases that seek visas to enter into Australia, those people that do not act in a genuine manner.

As I said from at outset, the thing that most disappoints me about the way in which this matter of public importance is being carried out is that there has been no attempt by the coalition, in the eyes of the Australian public, to enter into a debate that is in the national interest—to enter into a debate that says we can do things better. I am not a great champion of spending cuts as my initial reaction but I would remind those opposite that sometimes they should look at the nature of cuts as against the efficiencies that have been gained. We had an honourable member talking about queues of people coming into airports. There was no discussion about new technology, no discussion of the chipped passport, no discussion of what technology has made more efficient in our processing of visitors. But, no, that does not suit their base party political purposes.

I know, Madam Deputy Speaker, that you are very attentive in the way that you control the House at these moments. I only hope for your enjoyment, when you sit there in the chair, that we might have debates that rise above the base party political attitude and actually talk in the national interest and thrash out the way in which we might approach a very friendly nation like Indonesia, not in a way that distorts our relationship and not in the way in which the Leader of the Opposition has put it in public debate that suggests the Indonesian government does not share our concern. One of the best speeches over the last four or five years that was made in this place was by President Yudhoyono when he talked about the need for regional cooperation. It is regional cooperation about border protection of every country in the region. So let us not have performances like today, questions that suggest it is all the government's fault. First we had a false suspension of standing orders when they knew they did not have a statutory majority and now we have this matter of public importance that did not raise the level of the national interest by the contributions of those opposite.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mrs D'Ath ): Order! It being 5.03 pm the discussion is concluded.