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Tuesday, 19 November 2013
Page: 643

Asylum Seekers

Mr MARLES (Corio) (14:16): My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. Can the minister confirm reports that last Friday an Australian Navy patrol boat near Christmas Island sought to tow an asylum seeker vessel and that vessel then broke up and sank? Is this the first attempted tow-back and is this an example of it being safe to do so?

Mr MORRISON (CookMinister for Immigration and Border Protection) (14:16): The government will not be supporting the opposition's campaign for the people smugglers' right to know. That is not something we are going to engage in. I am not going to rely on the previous statements I have made in this House about these matters—about operations that have resulted in a 75 per cent reduction in illegal arrivals to Australia by boat. I am going to rely on the words of the former Chief of the Defence Force, someone very well-known to the members of the opposition, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, who said this last Friday, which was not widely reported:

I guess the military way of doing things is to operate with a higher degree of operational security to keep the people smugglers on the back foot, and I think that's really why there's a need for operational security, and that's why things are the way they are at the moment.

That is what he said to Adam Spencer. This is what he said in a news radio interview. He said:

There is a great advantage to have a high level of operational security which means you are not going to be transmitting frequently on what activities you are up to at that particular moment in time.

If they refuse to listen to the government as to why it would be reckless and foolish to broadcast operational matters of this nature, which the former Chief of the Defence Force has described in these terms, then perhaps they will listen to the former chief of defence who, indeed, headed up the previous government's own expert panel.