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Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Page: 1494


Mr MORRISON (Cook) (10:01): It is Groundhog Day. It is February, appropriation bills are back before the House and once again the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship has been standing before the parliament and asking for more money. The minister for immigration is indeed the Oliver Twist of Australian politics. Every year he turns up and says, 'Please, sir, can I have some more?' And this time he is asking again for more. This year the ask is $330 million. Last year, on recurrent, the ask was $295 million and with capital included it was $511 million and the year before that it was $85.7 million. Every February this government, despite revealing blow-outs in budget year after year after year—so even after those blow-outs—has to come back and ask for yet more funds time and time again.

The blow-out this year in the appropriation bills is intended to deal with two principal problems. The first one is a further blow-out in the 2011-12 budget, which was already blown out at the time of the original budget to the tune of over a billion dollars a year from less than $100 million a year for asylum seeker costs when the Howard government left office. But it is also to deal with a further blow-out last year. So not only did they get this year's budget wrong yet again and have had to ask for more money; they have even had a blow-out in the expenses from last year of over $100 million. So once again this minister has come to this House and said, 'Please, sir, can I have some more?'

Well, as is the practice with money bills, I suppose the government is going to get what it wants yet again and once again taxpayers are going to have to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars for this government's border protection failures. This is a government that has blown out the Department of Immigration and Citizenship's budget to record levels. This is a government that in 2011-12 will cost taxpayers, for that department, $2.73 billion. That is the bill for expenses for this year for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. This is a billion dollars more than the $1.69 billion it cost in 2007-08. That is why the government is asking for more money today as part of the debate on these bills. Also, DIAC's annual reports show that not only has there been this increase in cost but there has been a very significant increase in the size of the department itself. As to the number of permanent staff employed by DIAC between 2007 and 30 June 2011, there were 1,192 additional staff. So that is 1,192 additional officers within DIAC since this government came to office—an increase of 15 per cent over the last four years. During the same period the number of the highest paid senior executives, so the SE Service within DIAC, had also increased by 24 per cent. The median income for these positions in 2011 was between $180,000 and $210,000. This is a department that has gone completely out of control with costs and with the size of government. There is one simple reason for this: four years ago the government abolished the proven measures of the Howard government on border protection. Let us go through what the result has been. The minister has questioned figures relating to the blow-outs in the government's costs on border protection. I am happy to inform the minister by quoting from the government's own budget papers. Three years ago, in the budget estimates of 2009-10 and the additional estimates of 2009-10, there was a $207.5 million increase—a blow-out of the estimates of 2009-10 over the original budget of 2009-10. In the following year, in the 2010-11 budget they were $793.5 million over what they had said in the previous additional estimates, and when the next additional estimates came around the blow-out from the previous statement was $472 million. But they were just getting warmed up.

Strangely enough, after the election the additional estimates in 2010-11 showed a further blow-out over the budget estimates of 2010-11 of $1.5 billion. But they are still going, because in the additional estimates released last week the additional cost for asylum seeker management, netting off what they returned to the budget after the failed Malaysian people swap—so after they had put all that money back—was $866 million. That is a blow-out over the course of these last three years, from statement to statement, of $3.868 billion. That is the cost of this government's border protection failure—just under $3.9 billion.

When Senate estimates convened this week there were a lot of questions asked about the government decision to abolish the Pacific solution and temporary protection visas. The departmental secretary was asked whether he had advised the government of the potential cost implications of what he later described in his evidence as a major shift in policy. Once again, the secretary declined to answer this question. The only thing we can draw from the experience of the last three years is that the cost implications of that change in policy have so far been $3.9 billion.

This is a direct result of the change in government policy. In evidence, the secretary made it very clear that the reason for the blow-out in their total costs was the massive increase in costs related to the arrival of illegal boats to Australia. That is not in dispute. Under further questioning, Senator Lundy finally admitted that the increase in costs was a result of the change in policy. She coughed that up.

Mr Husic interjecting

Mr MORRISON: She was so keen to interject during Senate estimates with Senator Cash that she finally admitted what everybody in this country knows—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): Order! The member for Chifley needs to remember my hearing is in question here. The more you yell, the louder he gets. The member for Cook has the call.

Mr MORRISON: What everyone now knows—the Labor Party and the government have finally admitted it—is that the decision to get rid of the Howard government's proven border protection policies has cost Australian taxpayers dearly. It is revealed here in the government's own figures—almost $4 billion in total. I am quite sure they are going to eclipse that $4 billion mark by the time we get to May because, as surely as night follows day, this minister for immigration always turns up asking for more money. When we left office there were just four people in detention who had arrived in Australia illegally by boat. Today that figure is more than 6,000. Back in 2007, early 2008, either the government completely ignored the advice of the secretary of the department of immigration that this significant change in policy would have these consequences or, frankly, the secretary never gave that advice. I do not know what is worse. This government is always parading itself around saying it always takes advice. Well, either the department of immigration did not advise this, and have been proved to be hopelessly wrong on the experience of these figures, or the advice was ignored by the minister at the time and by Prime Minister Rudd and Prime Minister Gillard following that. The Prime Minister has completed the job of removing every brick in the wall that John Howard built for border protection in this country. They have removed every brick in the wall. They either ignored that advice or that advice was never given. What it shows is that we have a crisis on our borders that this government is incapable of solving.

The government are not upfront about these costs. At the end of November last year they said the change in the forward estimates would be $197 million. After all the changes that they talked about, when their people-swap fell over through their own incompetence—when it fell over in the High Court, when it fell over in the parliament—and when they embraced the policies of the Greens and rejected the proven policies of the coalition, they said that the net impact of all of this to the budget would be $197 million. That is what the Treasurer told the country and that is what the minister for immigration told the country. Yet in these figures today we see that the actual net cost over the forward estimates is $750 million plus. In just 2½ months this mob blew out their own budget and their own estimates by almost 300 per cent. They cannot keep up with their border blowouts. They cannot possibly keep up with them because they have no idea what is happening out there on our borders and the costs just keep mounting up and up.

There are 6½ thousand more beds in our detention network today, announced by this government over the last four years, than there were four years ago. This government has spent more money on putting more beds in detention centres than they have on putting beds in public hospitals. On a day where this parliament is going to drive more people into public hospitals, this government's only record on putting beds in place in this country is in detention centres, at a cost of almost $500 million in capital over the last four years.

This government has a record of deceit when it comes to this issue also, because before the last election they said they were not going to expand the detention network in Australia. When they were challenged on that they said they were not going to expand it. What does the record show? Since the last election they have announced more than 4½ thousand beds in our detention network. Their budget has blown out in this area by $2.9 billion since the last election.

The government want to be trusted now that next year they are going to achieve $400 million in savings in this area, when every single time they have presented a budget and at additional estimates the costs have just gone up and up and up. Now they want the Australian people to believe it is all going to be fixed next year, despite the fact that by the end of next financial year, according to their own evidence at estimates, another 7½ thousand people will have turned up in boats and there will be just under 6,000 people in the detention network.

To achieve the figures in their budget they have to do the following—and they know this: they will have to visa out of the system by the end of next year another 5,000 people with permanent protection visas. They will have to grant another 5,000 permanent protection visas. That will reduce the number of visas given to offshore humanitarian entrants and refugee entrants by that amount—by another 5,000. That is going to be the humanitarian cost of this government's border protection failures. Those who are duly awaiting their time and their place will lose that opportunity because 5,000 people who turn up in a boat over the next 18 months are going to get their visa. In addition to that, they have to issue another 1,800 bridging visas for people who they expect to be in the system. We will see how that goes. That is what their figures rely on; they will not meet them and we will be back in this place a year from now. The only plan of the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, who today wants to be the Treasurer—that is his exit plan from this portfolio—is not to stop the boats; it is to make Kevin Rudd Prime Minister so he can be Treasurer. And, based on these figures, if he does to our finances what he has done to the immigration portfolio heaven help us! Our finances will be in a worse state than our borders if this minister for immigration ever becomes Treasurer, which is his ambition.

This is a government that has no plan on this issue other than to blame the opposition, embrace the Greens and reject the proven policies of the coalition. That is its plan. Its plan is simply to blame the opposition for its own failures, which have delivered almost $4 billion in budget blowouts, have resulted in more than 15,000 people turning up on its watch and have seen our immigration network go from just four people in detention—you could almost put them in a phone box—to over 6,000 people, who are now costing taxpayers around $1.2 billion every single year.

I think that there is no issue that says more about this government's incompetence and their denial than this issue. This is a government that has completely lost the plot on this issue. They have no plan to fix it other than simply to blame the opposition and to carp and whinge. Today this government could implement Nauru. It could be done at a fraction of the cost of what the government says. (Time expired)