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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6463

Mr McCLELLAND (Attorney-General) (5:55 PM) —Just to deal with the issue of resources, the Minister for Home Affairs indicated in the House yesterday the extent of additional resources that the government is spending on the area of national security. There will be $3.4 billion in additional resources over five years. $654 million of that is for the area of border protection. We have in Australia some of the most robust laws of any country in the world, including mandatory detention, excision of offshore islands, offshore processing and compulsory return of those who do not meet the status of genuine asylum seekers. Of that $654 million, maritime surveillance will get an additional $324 million; aerial surveillance will get an additional $63 million; engagement with regional countries, including our near neighbours to the north but also extending to Sri Lanka and Pakistan, will get an additional $93 million for enhanced engagement; and law enforcement, including enhanced legal prosecutions, which are already showing dividends, will get an additional $13.6 million.

The honourable member referred to pull factors. What she did not acknowledge or refer to were the significant global push factors. I noted a lot of interjections in the House yesterday when the Minister for Home Affairs was going through those. In 2008, for instance, Italy saw a 122 per cent increase in people-smuggling activities, Canada saw a 30 per cent increase, Norway saw a 121 per cent increase, and the Netherlands saw 89 per cent. What the honourable member did not refer to were statements made previously by her, the Leader of the Opposition, and, I think, Senator Brandis that one of the pull factors has been the abolition of the temporary protection visas. It would seem that those opposite are suggesting that all the countries I referred to need to do is introduce a class of temporary protection visas and these numbers will dissipate and they will not suffer any more people seeking asylum in their countries. In fact, we know that is wrong. It is ridiculous.

The proof of the pie is in the eating, so to speak. It did not work. The temporary protection visa class was introduced in 1999. During that year there were 3,722 non-authorised rivals. In the next two years there were 8,459. All it did was result in an incentive for women and children to get on board these unsafe vessels. In the SIEV 10 event, we saw the worst-case scenario where a number of those women and children perished at sea. In fact, in terms of the false allocation of resources during the period of the former government, they spent in the order of $289 million, as best we can see, directly on the so-called Pacific solution, which exceeded the amount spent during that same period on surveillance activities, which was $264 million.

To succeed in ending the activities of these people smugglers—and it is the most reprehensible of human conduct—we need to focus on strong law enforcement measures and sophisticated engagement measures, which we are doing. Adherence to our international obligations as a good international citizen is unquestionably a plus in dealing with those international relations and obtaining that cooperation. Again, we have seen that in the fact that Hadi Ahmadi has been extradited to Australia. We have also seen two arrests of people-smuggling organisers in Australia recently. In fact, I think there are some 20 cases of people smuggling before the courts now in addition to the three that were successfully prosecuted last year. The government is literally putting our resources where our political language is, with an additional $654 million over the next five years.