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Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Page: 1947


Mrs GRIGGS (Solomon) (16:10): I rise to speak on this very important matter of public importance: the government's failure to protect the integrity of our borders and our immigration program. It disappoints me to once again have to speak about the Gillard Labor government's absolute failure to protect our nation by efficiently protecting our borders and our immigration program. It is very clear—the Gillard Labor government has lost control of our borders and the people smugglers have welcomed this development with open arms.

The Gillard Labor government has declared open season on our borders, and people smugglers are jumping for joy. They are delighted because they still have a product to sell. Australians know it was the Gillard Labor government that so viciously destroyed the border protection procedures introduced by the Howard government. It is for this reason that the people smugglers' favourite party to lead Australia is—you guessed it—the Labor Party.

Unfortunately it did not surprise me, but it was very concerning to hear reports come out just a couple of hours after Prime Minister Gillard announced the federal election date that people smugglers were racing to fill their boats before 14 September. Why would that be? The people smugglers know now that the welcome mat will be laid out until then.

News of the election date and possible change of government spread quickly. We have all heard reports of people smugglers scrambling to fill their boats as fast as they can before the election—because after the election there may not be the certainty that this current government provides of arriving in Australia. The people smugglers know that the coalition will stop the boats. They know that the coalition will not have the same $5 billion in failed border policies that this current Gillard Labor government has. People smugglers are shaking in their boots at the idea of a coalition government, whilst the people of Australia cannot wait for a government that will take the vulnerability of Australia's borders seriously and stop the boats. We are seeing evidence that Labor's border protection policy failures continue, day after day. Their $5 billion blow-out on border protection continues every day.

Their $5 billion failure means lost opportunities for infrastructure funding in my electorate. The people of Solomon are aware of this government's border protection failures and, quite frankly, they are sick of Labor's waste and mismanagement, and ridiculous policies that do not work. They are tired of this Gillard Labor government wasting money, when Darwin and Palmerston—like so many other jurisdictions across the country—are in desperate need of funding for improvements in health, education, community safety and housing.

After almost six years at their disposal, the Gillard Labor government has not and will not stop the boats. Let us look at its record on border protection. We on this side of the House know—and the Australian people know—that this Gillard Labor government still has no answers on how to stop the boats. It is no surprise that six boats have arrived over the past eight days, carrying over 800 people. We now have more than 11,000 people who have arrived illegally by boat since the Gillard Labor government agreed to reopen offshore processing on Nauru. Since the last federal election over 400 boats and 25,000 people have arrived illegally on our shores. Thanks to the Gillard Labor government, people smugglers now have a product to sell.

Labor has created a job for people smugglers and the people smugglers thank their lucky stars. Labor has pointed out this gap in the market for people smugglers to prey on the vulnerability of our island neighbours who are not as fortunate as us to have been born in this fabulous nation. I can only imagine what I could do in Solomon with $5 billion. It would fund a desperately needed hospital for the people of Palmerston. It would provide more police to improve community safety. It would provide a new school for our ever-increasing population. It could contribute significantly to affordable housing for Territorians who are being forced into homelessness every day due to the rising cost of housing. No wonder the people in my electorate are fed up with the Gillard Labor government and its failed border protection policies—policies which give the people smugglers a product to sell.

People in my electorate know very well that every dollar spent on combating people smuggling is a dollar not spent in our community. In my electorate people often tell me that their No. 1 issue with the Labor government is their massive failure in border protection. Recently, in a questionnaire in my community, I asked people what they thought was the biggest challenge facing Australia. Some of the responses included 'the steady stream of illegal immigrants', 'illegal immigration', 'boat people', 'people smugglers', 'illegal immigrants', 'the influx of illegal immigrants and the drain of Australia's resources to provide for these immigrants', 'the cost of illegal immigration' and 'the free health and dental services provided to illegal immigrants when I can't afford to take my family to the dentist'. Those were just a few of the comments given to me.

Labor's track record speaks for itself. We have had more people arrive illegally by boat this financial year than turned up during the entire period of the Howard government. As many of my colleagues have stated, this government is more interested in distracting attention from these issues than in dealing with them, raising all sorts of matters without addressing the core problem—that is, their failed border protection.

The lack of common sense and practical approach this government has in releasing hundreds of asylum seekers into our communities is quite alarming. A common-sense approach must be taken when considering the safety of our community and of course the safety of asylum seekers themselves. Releasing people into the community without the proper support required, such as secure accommodation and a sturdy support network, is absolutely ridiculous and outrageous. We have seen the results of this policy in the past few weeks, with asylum seekers sleeping on couches in university dormitories, in garages and in overcrowded boarding houses. Is this the best we can do? Absolutely not.

The coalition has a plan, an alternative to mitigate the disastrous impact the Gillard Labor government has had on border protection. We have stopped the boats before and we will do it again. The coalition will restore what the Labor Party abandoned—a strong border protection regime developed by the coalition as a priority to protect our nation's borders. The coalition will reintroduce offshore processing of illegal boat arrivals as part of a series of measures to stop the boats and to protect our borders. We will prevent this problem by minimising the numbers coming from both initial countries of origin and first asylum countries.

The coalition will disrupt the business of people smuggling and intercept boats where it is safe to do so. We will make it a priority to identify and assist those in genuine need of refugee protection. We have done it before and we will do it again. After 2001, the Howard government successfully reduced the flood of illegal boats to a mere trickle. Between 2002 and 2007 just 10 illegal entry boats arrived with fewer than 250 passengers. Compare this with over 400 boats and 25,000 people arriving illegally since the last federal election.

It is fair to say that Labor's management of this issue has been a disaster. The boats must be stopped. There is no argument that people smuggling is a good result for anyone. It is unsafe for asylum seekers and every year people die from taking this risk. Stopping the boats is a priority in my electorate. Given the opportunity, the coalition will make it a priority to fix the disastrous legacy of the Gillard-led Labor government. We will stop the boats. If we are fortunate enough to be elected to government come 14 September, we will stop the boats.