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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 1936

Asylum Seekers


Senator PATERSON (Victoria) (14:13): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General. Can the Attorney-General advise the Senate what the government is doing to further strengthen Australia's strong border protection regime?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:13): Thank you very much, Senator Paterson. As you know, this government is always alert to ensuring that Australia's border protection regime is as strong as possible. The Australian people expect nothing less of us and nothing less of this parliament.

To further strengthen the border protection regime, the government will introduce legislation to amend the Migration Act to prevent illegal maritime arrivals taken to a regional processing country from ever obtaining a visa to travel to Australia. It is vital that the government sends a clear message to the people smugglers and to their potential clients that there is no backdoor entry available for them into Australia. The bill reflects the government's longstanding position that illegal maritime arrivals who have been sent to a regional processing country will never be settled permanently in Australia. The bill will apply to all illegal maritime arrivals taken to a regional processing country since 19 July 2013. Senator Paterson, you might wonder about the significance of the date 19 July 2013. That is the date when the former Prime Minister, Mr Kevin Rudd, signed the regional resettlement arrangement with Papua New Guinea, and Mr Rudd said:

As of today, asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be resettled in Australia.

Mr Shorten said—just like Mr Rudd did in the run-up to the 2007 election—that Labor would be a carbon copy of the coalition when it came to maintaining the integrity of Australia's borders. Labor's stated policy position is that those in regional processing countries will not permanently settle in Australia. If Mr Shorten is serious, he will support this bill. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Paterson, a supplementary question.



Senator PATERSON (Victoria) (14:15): Can the Attorney-General advise the Senate why this legislation is necessary?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:15): Yes; because it will send a clear message to illegal maritime arrivals in regional processing countries that they will never settle permanently in Australia—no matter what advocates or others may tell them—and, indeed, may never come to Australia at any time in the future. It is necessary to introduce this legislation now, so those in regional processing countries engage with the governments of Nauru and Papua New Guinea to take up the return and resettlement packages available to them. Notwithstanding the acknowledged success of Operation Sovereign Borders, people smugglers will continue to take advantage of vulnerable people, to try to convince them to get on boats for Australia and risk their lives at sea. This bill will further undercut the people smugglers' business model, and it will communicate to the 14,000 waiting in Indonesia that they can never come to Australia. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Paterson, a final supplementary question.



Senator PATERSON (Victoria) (14:17): Attorney, are there any threats to Australia's strong border protection regime?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:17): Yes, Senator Paterson, I am afraid to say there are, and there is one that comes to mind most particularly, and that is the weakness of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Bill Shorten—the weakness of the Leader of the Opposition which the people smugglers have detected. They know that if the Labor Party were ever to be in office again, they would be back in business. But let us not forget that under the last Labor government—notwithstanding all the strong rhetoric that they used—800 boats came to Australia, 50,000 people arrived illegally, an uncountable number but at least 1,200 deaths that we know about occurred at sea, and 8,000 children went through the detention system. Under this government, no deaths at sea, no children in detention, and the problem has been solved.