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Australia at risk of being a laughing stock



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PARLIAMENT OF AUSTRALIA - THE SENATE

SENATOR JOCELYN NEWMAN SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE

MEDIA RELEASE

Australin At Risk Of Being A Laughing Stock

Any nation which wakes up to find uninvited guests on its doorstep is at risk of being a laughing stock with its neighbours.

But the arrival of two separate groups of boat people in. Darwin today, one of which has apparently not been detected by Coastwatch, is no laughing matter.

Despite the length of our coastline, and the difficult job of providing surveillance, it is vitally important that we do not give the impression that our back door is wide open.

The Federal Government has assured the Parliament that it "continues to place considerable importance on the need for a coastal surveillance and protection capability which prevents the bringing or spreading of human and agricultural diseases and pests into Australia, identifies possible breaches of Australian law and clearly demonstrates Australia's resolve and ability to exercise control over its sovereign territory".

This failure of surveillance is very serious and raises important questions. Did the Indonesians advise Australia that the boats were on the way? If they did, why was one boat not located? Were the relevant defence assets briefed on the likelihood of the landings, and were they used or available for use? If not, why not?

Australia's defence planning is based on the theory of the need to deal with. "low level contingencies" - for example minor lodgements or incursions on Australia's territory by lightly armed intruders. If these illegal immigrants had been terrorists or lightly armed troops, any amusement at the fact that they flagged down a passing motorist would disappear.

Coastwatch has the responsibility for maintaining surveillance for quarantine, defence, immigration, customs and drug related matters. In addition the Navy, Army and Airforce have complementary roles. These integrated resources seemed to have failed and Australians have the right to know why.

COMMONWEALTH

22 November 1994 PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY 8/94

For any further information phone Senator Newman on (003) 34 1755 until 4pm today, or Allan Shephard on (06) 277 3660 business hours or (06) 231 0387 after hours.

11 ELPHIN ROAD, LAUNCESTON, TAS. 7250 TELEPHONE (003)341755 FACSIMILE (003) 341624

PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA, A.C.T. 2600 TELEPHONE (06) 2773660 FACSIMILE (06) 2773449