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Thursday, 14 November 2013
Page: 341

Mr MORRISON (CookMinister for Immigration and Border Protection) (15:05): The Leader of the Opposition wants to talk about secrecy. I want to talk about the success that the Australian people deserve—the success of putting in place measures that deal with a very significant issue of failure that this government is having to address on a daily basis.

If we are talking about results here—because that is what the Australian people are interested in—every week the Australian people are being updated on the results that are occurring because of the government's initiatives. Under the previous government, the results were 50,000 people illegally arriving on more than 800 boats. In addition to that, there was a budget blow-out of more than $11 billion. Over 14½ thousand people who were seeking protection in Australia by applying offshore through the proper process were denied a protection visa in Australia because their visa and their protection went to someone who came illegally on a boat.

But, above and beyond all that, the results that were achieved under the previous government after they abolished those measures were: over 1,100 people dying at sea.

They are the results that so appalled the Australian people that at the last election they elected this government to restore the measures that worked. At that election we went to the Australian people and said what we were going to do. We said we were going to restore the measures that worked under the Howard government. We said we were going to put in place a regional deterrence framework, working with our partners throughout the region to ensure that we could put in place the deterrents—not the accommodations that were put in place by the previous government—that would stop people getting on these boats and stop the cost, the chaos and the tragedy, which was the story of the previous government that the Australian people wanted to see closed and ended.

All of the measures that we took to the last election are part of the arsenal of measures we are employing on this task. Those measures include the implementation of Operation Sovereign Borders. Operation Sovereign Borders is a military-led border security operation where the commander of the Joint Agency Task Force was appointed by the Chief of the Defence Force. It was his appointment. We tasked the JADF to put in place the arrangements for successfully implementing this policy. Part of the arrangements that the JADF put in place was a set of communication protocols designed to manage information so as not to advantage people smugglers.

They are the protocols this government is following, and they are the protocols the Leader of the Opposition and members opposite are inviting me to break, to violate and to undermine. They are asking me to undermine the judgment and the protocols put in place by the commander of the Joint Agency Task Force, who was in fact appointed by the Chief of the Defence Force. I am disappointed that the opposition would seek to reflect on that appointment and on the decisions of the Joint Agency Task Force.

As minister, I am ensuring that those protocols and those operations are being put in place, as they were designed to do. The results they are achieving, which are being provided to the Australian people, live up to the promise we made before the last election, which was to make a difference from day one. The difference is this: a 75 per cent reduction in illegal arrivals by boat to Australia since Operation Sovereign Borders was put in place. All of the measures we took to the last election are being implemented through Operation Sovereign Borders.

The members opposite have reflected on the measures that were introduced by the previous government. I would add this advice to the members opposite. The biggest measure that this government has in addressing the disastrous record of the government that preceded us, which opened our borders and left people dead in the water, is this: the resolve of this government. It is the resolve of this government that puts the steel in the measures that makes them work. The members opposite, over the years they served in government, as arrivals went from tens to hundreds to thousands, thought the answer to all of this was a press conference and a signing ceremony. They thought the answer was to flip and flop with the wind, ridden by division and double-mindedness. That sent the message loud and clear to the people smugglers that the former government was not serious and its heart was not in it. The Australian people knew it and they threw them out of office because they knew the former government was not serious about this issue and they would never have the resolve to carry it off.

That is why I said before that any measure dealing with deterrence of people-smuggling to Australia will always be safer and more effective in the hands of the coalition than it will ever be in the hands of the members opposite, because the people smugglers know that they just do not believe it. That is why we have seen that when the coalition got its hands back on offshore processing and the belated measures that the previous government was dragged kicking and screaming to introduce, they really began to work, and they will really continue to work, because we have applied ourselves not to the speaking but to the operation and implementation. This government does not talk about doing things; it does things. That is what we were elected to do—we were elected to do things.

The members opposite always thought the answer to every political crisis was a political response and a press conference. With the Malaysian people swap they put in place from August to May 2011, which was negotiated in secret, I stress that as they flipped and flopped and demonstrated their inconsistency over so many points, they made one critical error at the time they released the announcement. The error they made on that occasion was not that they kept those negotiations secret for so long. The error they made was that they announced the Malaysian people swap on the eve of the budget as a political stunt to avoid another weekend embarrassment for their government. In doing so they effectively blew any potential operational effectiveness of that measure, because they announced an agreement that was not done.

This government is not going to make the same mistakes the previous government did when it comes to border protection. When we talk to other governments we will do it discreetly and privately. When we put arrangements in place we will put them in place so that they are effective. We will not be providing running commentaries. We will not be running a shipping news service for people smugglers. We will be managing the information in a way that continues to achieve results.

The opposition is missing the point. The opposition think that this is an issue for sport. The Australian people have had enough of the sport, enough of the histrionics, enough of the talking. What they want are results. What I can report to the Australian people, as we have each week, is that the boats are stopping. That is what we committed to the Australian people to do and that is what we will use every fibre in the being of this government to continue to deliver. We are stopping the boats. We said that we would stop the boats. It was those opposite who set the boats running, and it is those opposite who sit so ashamed of their performance that they are engaged in these childish games to undermine the operational effectiveness of an operation that is working. This government has the resolve and the unity of purpose to get this job done. The opposition is looking for sport. I suggest that they look for it somewhere else.