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Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Page: 6078

Asylum Seekers


Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (14:51): My question is to the Prime Minister. I remind the Prime Minister of her statement in 2002:

The navy has turned back four boats to Indonesia. … It has made a very big difference to people-smuggling that that happened.

If it was possible to turn back boats in 2002, why is it not possible now?


Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:52): I thank the member for her question, and the answer really is a simple one. I am surprised that members opposite do not recognise it. People smuggling, like other transnational crimes, change the way in which they work depending on law enforcement. Of course, what started to happen because of turning back boats was that boats were sabotaged, people were in the water and, of course, Australian personnel then went to their assistance because they would not leave them there to drown.

That is the circumstance to which people like former Chief of Defence Force, Admiral Barrie, have been referring in recent days; referring to a circumstance where that puts our ADF personnel at risk. So I would say to the member that if she is seriously interested in this—seriously interested, as opposed to trying to make a political point—that she study the words of our former Chief of Defence Force, who you would assume, in all courtesy and respect, would know something about those circumstances on the high seas. I do not see how anybody in the parliament or the advisers box could seek to treat a person like that with discourtesy or a lack of respect.

So in his professional opinion, Admiral Barrie has said loudly and publicly that this puts ADF personnel at risk. Understanding that—understanding the facts of the matter—ensuring that we work in accordance with the best possible advice and ensuring that we do not put our ADF members at unnecessary risk, the government have understood that you cannot embark on such a policy and end up risking lives.

To the Leader of the Opposition and others in the opposition who say, slogan-wise, that they want to pursue this kind of policy, can I suggest that they reflect very, very deeply on the risks to Australian personnel and the risks to life that they are talking about. In this area where the opposition are so given to sloganising, at some point they may want to produce a detailed, costed document—not something full of assertions about what they can do with Indonesia but something that deals with the facts; not something full of assertions about turning back boats but something that deals with the facts; and not something full of assertions about temporary protection visas but something that deals with the facts.

The Australian people are entitled to that degree of courtesy and respect. Unfortunately, day after day after day the opposition refuses to show it.