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Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Page: 148

Asylum Seekers

Mr MARLES (Corio) (14:21): My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. Can the minister provide details about a boat carrying Somalian asylum seekers arriving on Monday evening, in Darwin?

Mr MORRISON (CookMinister for Immigration and Border Protection) (14:21): I thank the member for his question. This government is not running a shipping news service for people smugglers. As promised, we are running a military-led border security operation. As I just said, it is stopping the boats. Operation Sovereign Borders was established with clear communication protocols designed by the Joint Agency Task Force led by Lieutenant General Campbell to support the effectiveness of that operation.

Before the election, the coalition made it crystal clear that communications protocols for Operation Sovereign Borders would be determined by the Joint Agency Task Force, and that is exactly what we have done. These procedures are designed not to advantage people-smugglers, by restricting the official information available to those people-smugglers. People-smugglers use official information provided by governments, especially when that information is specific, to sell and promote their product and create perceptions amongst potential illegal entrants.

Mr Burke: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. If we can assist: it is no secret that the boats arrived; we just want to be able to use question time to elicit an answer from a minister. That is the fundamental of why we are here. To give an answer that is simply saying that they have a media strategy to not do that completely undermines the importance of question time and ministerial responsibility.

The SPEAKER: Thank you for your point of order. I think the minister in answering the question has indicated to you the specific information. He is giving you an answer in the negative, which is directly related to your question.

Mr MORRISON: I can understand why the Manager of Opposition Business is fairly sensitive on this issue, as he holds the record for the highest number of illegal maritime arrivals in the nation's history.

But specific information, as I was seeking to explain, is used. It was used in the information that was provided by the previous government to provide an official proof of voyage for payment. It can also be used to decipher the posture of border protection assets. And it can be used to identify potential client pools, especially when nationalities are referred to.

I am not going to be part of a process, as a minister, that helps people-smugglers. I have spent the past four years dragging the previous government, kicking and screaming, towards restoring measures that they abolished, leading to chaos, cost and tragedy, to 50,000 illegal arrivals on more than 800 boats. There is a protocol in place. It has been put in place by the Joint Agency Task Force, headed up by Lieutenant General Campbell. I am not going to violate a process and undermine an operation that is stopping the boats. I am not going to assist people-smugglers, as those opposite are urging me to do. We are going to hold the line, we are going to protect the borders, we are going to make sure those borders are secure and we are going to make sure those boats are stopped. Each time members opposite wish to bring these matters into this place, I will remind them of the carnage they delivered on our borders.