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Monday, 1 December 2008
Page: 7692

Senator LUNDY (3:09 PM) —I can see only one senator who is sending a message to Indonesia about a green light on border patrols and people smugglers and that is Senator Ellison. I have never heard a more disturbing attempt to misrepresent federal Labor’s policy with respect to border control. He stands here and speaks to this issue today as though he blocked his ears when the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Evans, responded, thoughtfully, to his questions earlier in question time.

I would like to reiterate some of Senator Evans’s answers as well as include the snide and misleading attempt by Senator Ellison to somehow describe the stand-down of Navy as affecting the ability of border controls over Christmas. Senator Evans clearly said that was not the case and the Navy’s preparedness will not be affected by the plan to stand down non-essential personnel in order to give them and their families the rest and respite they have earned, which Senator Ellison well heard, as did everyone in this chamber. I think the comment by Senator Ellison was an extremely poor effort and not reflective at all of the answers that Minister Evans clearly gave the chamber this afternoon.

I would also like to go to the substance of the point that the opposition tries to make here, that somehow our border protection arrangements have been weakened. They have been weakened mostly by the presentation just given by Senator Ellison and his obviously earnest exercise to undermine our border control policies. Senator Ellison clearly knows that there has been no weakening, that we have remained strongly committed to border security arrangements and that we have appropriate management in place to deal with the perpetrators of people smuggling, which we all know puts lives at risk. Indeed we know that lives have been lost in the effort to smuggle people.

Labor has retained, as senators know, the excision of offshore islands and mandatory detention and processing on Christmas Island for unauthorised boat arrivals. Senator Evans said that we are not continuing with the Pacific solution, which is one element of the former government’s plan that was highly controversial and absolutely ineffective in its application to this problem. Labor has also maintained the extensive patrolling of our borders undertaken by Border Protection Command, and again Senator Evans was clear today that he is confident that Customs is not diminishing this in any way. Indeed, Senator Ellison, Senator Evans undertook to get you further information on and clarification of that.

Unfortunately, we can all see that there is continuing activity from people smugglers in the region. I am proud to say that Labor’s approach is consistent, it has principle and it has taken away the ineffective elements and unwholesome rhetoric that was associated with the former government’s policies and applied some principles to managing this in a fair and effective way—more effective indeed than we could ever do under the former government because they were so keen on tangling up the rhetoric and were far less focused on making it a practical solution.

Senator Ellison also made reference to some five boats arriving last year with 148 people on board and six boats arriving in the previous year with 60 people on board. So, under the previous government, there were more arrivals in each of the last two years than there has been in this year to date. I put to you, Mr Deputy President, that the facts speak for themselves and Labor’s ongoing commitment to border protection stays solid. I am extremely disappointed to witness in the chamber today Senator Ellison’s attempt to have a last-ditch effort to glory grab on his previous role in these related portfolios with regard to border protection.

Finally, I think anyone concerned about these issues can take comfort from the assurances given by the minister in the chamber today. I am extremely surprised, with the range of issues that was put forward through the course of question time, that it was this issue that the coalition decided to pluck out and beat up in the way that they have. I think that speaks volumes for the aptitude and quality of the opposition we are now dealing with.