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Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Page: 147

Asylum Seekers


Mr NIKOLIC (Bass) (14:17): My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. At the recent election, the people of Bass indicated their support for the coalition's plan to stop the boats by electing a Liberal member of parliament. Will the minister update the House on the government's progress?


Mr MORRISON (CookMinister for Immigration and Border Protection) (14:18): Madam Speaker, I commence by commending you on your elevation to the speakership and also commend the member for Bass on his maiden speech in this place today. The member for Bass is someone who has spent a lifetime on issues of sovereignty of Australia and it is important that we acknowledge his service, not only that which he commences in this place but his great service to our nation over many years.

The good news I have to report to the member for Bass is that for the first time in five years, since the previous government dismantled the measures that worked, the Australian government once again has the upper hand over the people smugglers. Not only are illegal arrivals down by 75 per cent in the first eight weeks of Operation Sovereign Borders coming into being but we are stopping more people coming through the region to this country, than are arriving, by a factor of 100 per cent. More people are being stopped coming through the region through our active cooperation—in particular, with Indonesia but also with Malaysia and all the way up through the region and back to source countries—and it is this combination of measures which is producing what is a very successful early result.

We said when we were in opposition and campaigning at the last election that we would make a difference from day one—and a 75 per cent reduction in the first eight weeks, I would say, is a good start. But it is not a final outcome and it is not the outcome we are seeking. The outcome we are seeking is the outcome that was achieved by the Howard government—that was the last government to stop the boats—and as each week passes we hope to see better results. But we are in the most dangerous period of all now, as we lead into the monsoon period. That means we need to be constant and ever-vigilant in our efforts.

These efforts have not only benefited Australia but also have benefited our good partner Indonesia. I can report, based on UNHCR figures, that since the election of this government the number of people coming into Indonesia has fallen from 1,638 people to 602. At the end of September, I should stress—one month after the new visa-on-arrival measures were in place in September—the figure was still 1,602. So in the month of October we saw a dramatic reduction of over 1,000, since the peak.

These are results that the government will continue to work on and continue to strive to get better. There is no single measure. We have increased our returns from our offshore-processing centres by 100 per cent. Removals from our offshore-processing centres that were occurring before the change of government and the start of Operation Sovereign Borders, and afterwards, have increased by 100 per cent. The progress is good. There is more work to be done.