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Beazley's coastguard plan blows out by $595 million within 48 hours.

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Minister for Justice and Customs Manager of Government Business in the Senate Senator for Western Australia

E163/05 28 November 2005

Beazley’s coastguard plan blows out by $595 million within 48 hours

Kim Beazley has performed a remarkable and shameless flip-flop on Labor’s latest coastguard policy within just 48 hours of recycling Mark Latham’s discredited plan, the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison said today.

After re-committing Labor on Saturday to Mark Latham’s 2004 election, $300 million coastguard promise, Mr Beazley this morning suggested the Australian Government should have adopted his 2001 coastguard plan:

"If the Government had done what the Labor Party suggested four years ago, we now would not have the problem we've got.” Kim Beazley, 612ABC Brisbane, 28/11/05

The comment further exposes Labor’s confusion about a coastguard as:

ï¿» Four years ago Kim Beazley proposed a coastguard with a price tag of $895 million;

ï¿» On Saturday, however, his coastguard price tag was $300 million, a $595 million dollar difference from the 2001 policy he seemed to endorse on Brisbane radio this morning.

“Labor’s chaotic succession of half-baked policies has only one constant - a commitment to taking highly trained officers off the frontline of border protection and replacing them with deskbound bureaucrats in Canberra,” Senator Ellison said.

Labor has now released five coastguard policies since 2001 with wildly different costings:

ï¿» The first under Kim Beazley’s leadership in October 2001 - $895 million;

ï¿» The second under Simon Crean in November 2002 - (uncosted);

ï¿» The third under Mark Latham in March 2004 - $612 million;

ï¿» The fourth in June 2004 - released during the 2004 election campaign - $303.6 million (after the deadline for independent costings to be done under the Charter of Budget Honesty), and

ï¿» Labor’s fifth and Kim Beazley’s latest policy, although apparently no different from Mr Latham’s - $303.6 million (untested). Commentators at the time estimated the policy would cost between $400 million and $500 million.

Senator Ellison said Labor’s fifth coastguard policy was further flawed because:

ï¿» If Labor wants to buy three more boats of the same size as the Australian Defence Force’s new patrol boats, and five more boats of the same size as the existing Customs vessels, why set up an entirely new bureaucracy to manage them?;

ï¿» Mr Beazley appears ignorant of the fact that Customs already has an armed interdiction capacity and carries out this role frequently in Australia’s northern waters, particularly in detecting, deterring and apprehending illegal foreign fishing vessels. The Government ensured Customs has the legal power to undertake such duties in the amendments to the Customs and Migration Acts in 1999 which provided a comprehensive range of enforcement powers for use in the maritime area adjacent to Australia - including powers of ‘hot pursuit’;

ï¿» Mr Beazley knows full well that the existing emphasis on mobility ensures that Coastwatch aircraft, Australian Customs Vessels and ADF vessels are more readily deployable, and that these assets routinely patrol off the coast of Western Australia;

ï¿» The Howard Government considers the security of the North West to be so important that two new Armidale class patrol boats will be stationed at Dampier and dedicated to the protection of these waters and their assets. All fourteen Armidale class patrol boats are being built in Western Australia, and

ï¿» Mr Beazley is also wrong when he states that Customs vessels lack the weapons to fire on illegal vessels and that naval vessels are prevented from doing so by their rules of engagement. Customs vessels are currently being armed with deck mounted FN Herstal 7.62mm General Purpose Machine Guns, and naval rules of engagement do not prevent vessels from firing across the bows of non-compliant vessels.

Senator Ellison said Kim Beazley’s confused coastguard policy was in stark contrast to the Australian Government’s comprehensive suite of Customs, Coastwatch and Navy resources currently protecting our borders.

Media enquiries: Brad Burke (02) 6277 7260/0417 749 711