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Wednesday, 11 December 2013
Page: 1460

Asylum Seekers


Senator SMITH (Western Australia) (14:53): My question is to the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Senator Cash. Can the minister update the Senate on how the government is progressing with its commitment to restore integrity to Australia's border protection?

Senator Conroy: It's not Friday!

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: When there is silence I will call the minister. The Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Senator Cash.




Senator CASH (Western AustraliaAssistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women) (14:54): I thank Senator Smith for his question. The Senate will be aware that in the 2013 election the coalition went to the election with a very, very clear suite of policies. On 7 September the public of Australia cast their vote, and they cast their vote in favour of the coalition's policies. We committed to the Australian people that we, unlike the former government, would implement policies that would break the people smugglers' business model, which the other side had continually fuelled whilst it was in government.

Those on the other side would know that they failed Australians in relation to border protection like no other government has ever done in history. This government was elected with a very clear mandate to implement Operation Sovereign Borders and I am pleased to advise the Senate that we have made a difference from day one. There has been an over 80 per cent reduction in the number of boats coming to this country since Operation Sovereign Borders commenced. In relation to the offshore—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I am entitled to hear Senator Cash's answer and Senator Cash is entitled to be heard in silence.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I am entitled to listen to the answer, as is Senator Smith, who asked the question. Senator Cash, continue.

Senator CASH: Thank you, Mr President. In relation to offshore processing, the Abbott government is fully committed to offshore processing, unlike the former Labor government, which used the term but failed to do anything with it. In relation to the rapid transfer process, I can advise the Senate that this is happening and the majority of people are being transferred within 48 hours to Nauru or Manus Island.

We have, of course, taken off the table the people smugglers' business model, which is the promise of a permanent protection visa. Our policy is very clear: no person that comes to Australia under the Abbott government will receive a permanent protection visa. This government has the right policies in the right hands— (Time expired)





Senator SMITH (Western Australia) (14:56): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate why it is important for the government to ensure that it delivers on its election promises in this area?

Senator Conroy interjecting

The PRESIDENT: It is very difficult to give the minister the call when, as soon as the question has been asked, you interrupt.



Senator CASH (Western AustraliaAssistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women) (14:57): It is a fact, and Australians know it, that any federal government has the sovereign right to control its borders. We on this side understand that. Those on that side failed to understand that whilst in government. The Australian people, in casting their vote at the federal election in September 2013, clearly cast a vote in favour of the coalition's policies. It is only by delivering on our strong border protection policies that we will stop the chaos, the tragedy and the bill, of in excess of $11 billion of taxpayers' money, that was irresponsibly racked up by those on the other side because they failed Australians when it comes to protecting Australia's borders. To relinquish control of your migration program to the people smugglers is one of the most fundamental mistakes a government can make. (Time expired)


Senator SMITH (Western Australia) (14:58): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister advise of the dangers to Australia of not pursuing a strong border protection regime?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaAssistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women) (14:59): The greatest danger presented by not pursuing strong border protection policies is that, like the former Rudd government, the former Gillard government and the former Rudd government, we will continue as a government to outsource our border protection policies to the people smugglers.

This government is completely aware of the risks that people take when they attempt to make the dangerous journey to Australia. It has been confirmed that under the former government's policies over 1,000 people lost their lives while attempting to come to Australia by boat. This government is committed to stopping the boats, to stopping the people smugglers from peddling their promise of a permanent visa and encouraging vulnerable people to get on boats and risk their lives. This government has the right policies. They are in the right hands, and those policies are delivering results.