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Thursday, 14 November 2013
Page: 329

Asylum Seekers

Mr LAMING (Bowman) (14:16): My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. Could the minister inform the House on action being taken to introduce temporary protection visas for illegal boat arrivals?

Mr MORRISON (CookMinister for Immigration and Border Protection) (14:16): Thank you to the member for Bowman for his question. I am pleased to advise the House that after an absence of more than five years this government has restored temporary protection visas. Temporary protection visas were abolished by those on that side of the House—along with the Greens—when they came to government over five years ago. What followed in the wake of that everyone in this place will remember: over 50,000 people turned up on over 800 illegal boats to Australia. There was a budget blow-out of over $11 billion, and over 1,100 people perished at sea. That is what followed from the decision of the previous government to abolish temporary protection visas and the many other measures that had been introduced by the Howard government that had stopped the boats. The previous government had found a solution. They turned it into a problem of catastrophic levels, and they should hang their heads in shame.

What they are doing in the Senate right now is joining up with the Greens, yet again, to defer the consideration of the Greens motion, which is to disallow the introduction of temporary protection visas. They are teaming up with the Greens to defer the decision for some weeks yet. This portrays the problem that those on the Labor side have always had on this issue. They are double minded, they are divided on this issue, and they always defer to the Greens. That is what they are doing here.

So I am pleased to say that temporary protection visas are back, and they are back because those on that side of the House left behind a legacy caseload of 33,000 people that they had not processed. This government has a big job to stop the boats and we are making a good start, with a reduction of 75 per cent in illegal arrivals by boat since Operation Sovereign Borders commenced. But we have another big task, and that task is to clear the backlog of Labor's lethargy when it comes to how they dealt with people who they allowed to come into this country. Had they been re-elected, those people would all be getting permanent visas—but not under this government, because this government believes what it says. We have conviction on this issue. Those on that side were double minded. They flipped and they flopped and they went with every wind that passed through that debate. As a result, they could not be believed. But, now, under this government, every measure is backed by resolve, because the people-smugglers know that this government means business. That government, when it was in power, could not hold a position from one day to the next.