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Thursday, 14 November 2013
Page: 332

Asylum Seekers

Mr MARLES (Corio) (14:28): My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. Can the minister advise the House exactly how many boats have been turned back to Indonesia successfully since the election?

Mr MORRISON (CookMinister for Immigration and Border Protection) (14:29): As I reminded the House yesterday, the coalition announced a policy before the last election that we would be implementing Operation Sovereign Borders. This is a very different way of doing things—a very, very different way. And I have to say, one of the key differences is that we now measure arrivals in the hundreds, not the thousands—as we did under the previous government. But there are many differences that are taking place, and one of those differences is the way that we handle information. We do it on the guidance of the Joint Agency Task Force of Operation Sovereign Borders, and it is done for this purpose: so as to not use information to advantage people smugglers to sell their product.

Those opposite might not understand this, because under their government they were not running such an operation; they were running a water taxi service. They were happy to let people smugglers know where their vessels were and how successful their operations were and to provide them proofs of voyage that could be used to provide proof of payment and to accept payment and get the cashflow of the business running. They were very happy to do that. But we are not running that sort of an operation. That is why the communications protocols about what happens within Operation Sovereign Borders, which are tactical on-water operations and things of that nature, are not things that are canvassed publicly. To do so would be to assist people smugglers to get people on boats that sink. If that is what the opposition is encouraging the government to do—to go back on our election promises—

Ms Plibersek: Madam Speaker, a point of order: the changes to the standing orders require that the minister be directly relevant to the question. There is no way that he is directly relevant. He just needs to tell us a number. If the number is zero, then say it!

The SPEAKER: I would ask the honourable member to withdraw that last term.

Ms Plibersek: To assist you, Madam Speaker, I withdraw.

The SPEAKER: Thank you. It is not my sort of language. There is no point of order.

Mr MORRISON: To provide the information that the opposition has requested would be to violate the communications protocols which have been established by the Joint Agency Task Force for Operation Sovereign Borders. To do so, as I said, would aid people smugglers. I know that those opposite got everything they wanted when they were last in government, together with the cheers of the Greens. They were able to abolish all the measures that worked, and they invited the 50,000 arrivals, which they duly advised to the people-smuggling audience all around the world and encouraged them to keep coming. This government is not going to engage in the practices of the former government, and that is why we are seeing a 75 per cent reduction in arrivals. What remains available to the government is to implement the full suite of measures that we took to the Australian people and, most importantly, the resolve to back it up, which the previous government dismally lacked.