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Border security: what is the Government saying?

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Senator the Hon David Johnston Shadow Minister for Defence I Senator for Western Australia Media Release BORDER SECURITY - WHAT IS THE GOVT SAYING? Today the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, Senator Penny Wong, not only failed to reassure the public that our maritime border is not exposed by the naval personnel Christmas stand down, but also openly contradicted her colleague when claiming there would be no change in operational intensity in regard to border security. In Senate question time today Shadow Defence Minister Senator David Johnston, sought assurances from Senator Wong that the recent illegal people-smuggling efforts had nothing to do with the Government’s decision to send the navy on Christmas holidays. “Why is the Government making our maritime border exposed at the very time there has been a sudden surge since mid August in people-smugglers bringing illegal immigrants to Australia?” Senator Johnston asked. Senator Wong failed to answer this simple question and also contradicted her colleague Senator Faulkner with her claims of no changes to operational intensity. Senator Faulkner in response to a question regarding Australia’s border protection last Wednesday, November 26th said that there would be a reduced activity period for Navy over the Christmas/New Year period. He said: ‘Over the Christmas period, half the patrol boat fleet will remain on duty protecting our border’ Clearly Senator Wong has her facts wrong as Senator Faulkner confirmed that seven of the fourteen naval patrol boats would be stood down for Christmas holidays. “This frank admission by Senator Faulkner is forthright and confirms our border protection patrols over the Christmas period will be diminished, and sends a message to people-smugglers our borders are open and vulnerable,” Senator Johnston said. Senator Johnston said Senator Wong’s answer today showed that the left hand of the Government didn’t know what the right hand was doing. “I am seeking urgent assurances on how it is possible, for example, for a boat of significant size, with twelve illegal arrivals onboard to avoid border security surveillance and detention before landing at Shark Bay in WA, a position that is almost on the same latitude as Brisbane,” Senator Johnston said. 3/12/2008Media contact: Rebecca Horton 0427 449 120