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Thursday, 20 June 2013
Page: 6544

Mr KEENAN (Stirling) (16:24): As we have been sitting here having this debate, the government has put out another announcement: another boat has arrived. It has arrived very close to Darwin, because our Border Protection Command have a very difficult time in intercepting the sheer volume of boats that are arriving under Labor's failed border protection regimes. Those announcements can occur up to five or six times a day at the moment. People smugglers have ramped up their activity to a level we have never before seen in our history.

We are all politicians in this place. We all follow politics closely and we all know what is going on in the government at the moment. Basically, we have got a group of warring tribes who occupy the Treasury benches and they are totally consumed by their own internal politics.

I went to the Midwinter Ball last night. I enjoyed it very much and I congratulate those who organised it in aid of the charities that they supported. And I kid you not, I was speaking to one person who swore to me black and blue that we would have a change of Prime Minister on Monday—it was definitely going to happen on Monday. I spoke to another person who said, 'No, no, it won't be Monday. It will be Tuesday.' Finally, a third party said to me, 'No, no, no, that is not going to happen. It will happen on Thursday. We will have a new Prime Minister on Thursday.' That means that the Prime Minister might be safe if she comes to work on Wednesday, but of course I did not actually talk to that many people so it is quite possible that people are saying that she could go that day as well.

The point that I am making is that regardless of what happens next week, regardless of who emerges as Prime Minister, whether we have the member for Lalor or whether we have the member for Griffith, nothing will actually change. That is why the Australian people are so over this. That is why it really makes no difference who emerges as Prime Minister. Under Prime Minister Rudd we had 139 illegal boats arrive. That was considered so serious by the current Prime Minister that she said it was one of the reasons she needed to take over from the member for Griffith as Prime Minister. Then subsequently her record—after saying that Kevin Rudd's record was so bad with 139 boats—is that 590 illegal boats have arrived under her watch. It is a rate of illegal boat arrivals that we have never before seen in our history.

It is hard to know who is going to be worse for protecting our borders: the Prime Minister who introduced the measures that led to this very sorry state of affairs, or the Prime Minister who said she was going to do something about it and has made things so much worse. All the Australian people can take from this is that nobody on the government benches has any idea about what to do apart from continuing their policy of abject surrender to the people smugglers. That is all we have from the Labor Party—abject surrender to the people smugglers. The government's policy is now just to shrug their shoulders and say, 'Oh well, it has got nothing much to do with us. We are only the government.'

The worst thing about this is that it would not be occurring if the Labor Party had come into office and just left well enough alone. They inherited a border protection policy that worked, one that meant that boats were not arriving, one that meant that people smugglers were not active and that people were not coming here in leaky boats on the high seas. They took that solution and created a problem. In a fit of moral vanity they abolished those proven measures that actually worked, reinvigorated the people-smuggling trade and, since then, we have had this record number of illegal boat arrivals—almost 45,000 people on 729. But in fact it is 730, because we have just had another arrival announced.

What we are seeing from the Labor Party at the moment is less of a government and more of a circus. It is far more of a circus. I am surprised that cabinet ministers do not walk in here with a red noses and large multicoloured wigs. I am surprised that they do not arrive in a cabinet meeting in a very small car. The point is that nobody on the government benches has any idea about what to do with the challenges that are facing this country. Whether it be the current Prime Minister or whether it be the member for Griffith, the people smugglers know that they are the ones who are going to remain in charge. Nothing is going to change. We could have the former Prime Minister who broke it, or we could have the current Prime Minister who has made it so much worse. No matter what the Labor Party does, we are not going to get a resolution to this very serious problem.

What we need to do of course is ensure that we return to a suite of policies that we know works. How do we know that they work? We know that they work because they have achieved the goal that we need them to achieve—that is, when we implemented them in the past they smashed people smuggling: temporary protection visas, turning the boats back when it is safe to do so and a genuine approach to offshore processing that means that people do not actually set foot on mainland Australia. What we have at the moment is a circus running this country and it is time we brought the curtain down.

Debate interrupted.