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Thursday, 26 June 2014
Page: 4055

Asylum Seekers

Senator EGGLESTON (Western Australia) (14:07): My question is to the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Senator Cash. Can the minister inform the Senate which agencies and personnel have been deployed in the implementation of Operation Sovereign Borders, and what has been achieved?

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaAssistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women) (14:08): I thank Senator Eggleston for what is his final question in this place and I acknowledge his 18-year contribution to the Australian Senate. Senators will be aware that less than a fortnight after the Abbott government was sworn in, the joint agency task force was created to implement the policies associated with Operation Sovereign Borders. The joint agency task force is staffed by approximately 470 people from a range of agencies and departments. These include the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, the Australian Federal Police, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Australian Defence Force, along with staff from other departments and agencies. OSB is a professional operation staffed by dedicated, talented and experienced men and women. Their proficiency is clearly demonstrated by the results they have achieved to date. Let me remind senators that it has now been 189 days since the last successful people-smuggling venture to Australia. By contrast, under Labor former minister Brendan O'Connor only lasted 147 days as immigration minister and during that time 12,284 IMAs arrived on 184 boats. Former minister Tony Burke lasted just 79 days in the job, during which time 6,639 IMAs arrived on 83 boats.

This government is implementing the policies that work with the people and the resources that we have on hand and they are men and women who are dedicated and professional. I applaud, as do the Liberal Party and the National Party, their commitment to our nation.

Senator EGGLESTON (Western Australia) (14:10): Mr President, I have a supplementary question. Will the minister advise the Senate whether resources the government has used to stop illegal boat arrivals were available to the former government and whether resources have been the only factor in stopping illegal boat arrivals?

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaAssistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women) (14:10): The resources that are being utilised by this government are the exact same resources that were available to the former government. The difference clearly is that the former government chose not to use them. As Minister Morrison himself has stated, they are the same people that are there that the previous government had. The fundamental difference between this government and the former government is that the policies have changed, the resolve has changed, the leadership has changed, the direction has changed and the orders and the support and the sense of purpose have changed. We urged the former Labor government to reimplement our policies when they made the disastrous decision back in August 2008 to wind them back. The Australian people are under no illusion as to what it takes to stop the boats, and that is the resolve of the Abbott coalition government.

Senator EGGLESTON (Western Australia) (14:11): I have a second supplementary question, Mr President. Can the minister outline to the Senate the government's commitment to the men and women who implement the government's policy, and why is it important to provide clear support for these dedicated people?

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaAssistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women) (14:12): In commencing my answer to Senator Eggleston's question I will confirm that it was the former government which dumped 30,000 people into the community and did not process one of them. We are now cleaning up the legacy caseload. But, uniformed or not, what the men and women do in protecting our borders and facilitating trade and travel and in their immigration, customs and border protection duties on a daily basis is outstanding. Many of our officers place themselves in harm's way, risking their own personal safety to save the lives of others, often in difficult circumstances requiring not only the ability to act but managing resulting trauma for themselves, for their colleagues and for those rescued, some of whom would have lost their family members in the same incidents. This takes courage, commitment and selflessness, and above all it takes excellence. I, like all members of the Abbott government, wholeheartedly support and commend the men and women who so successfully implement government policy.