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Monday, 1 December 2008
Page: 7695

Senator FARRELL (3:18 PM) —Senator Johnston told us what he would do if he were the minister. Of course, he is not the minister, because the Australian people rejected the border protection policies of the previous government. What did the Australian people do on 24 November last year? They turned to the Australian Labor Party because they preferred the border protection policies of the Australian Labor Party. Just like they preferred our policies on Work Choices to the inhumane way that you treated Australian workers, they rejected your policy on the issue of border protection. They turned to us. They knew that your policy was not working. Your policies were not fixing the problem of border protection, so they turned to us.

What are we doing? We are fixing the problem. The Rudd Labor government is, of course, committed to strong border protection, and we are determined to operate it effectively and appropriately, particularly in ensuring that people who are acting to introduce people smuggling do not succeed in achieving that. Labor has retained the excising of the offshore islands. Labor has retained mandatory detention and processing on Christmas Island for unauthorised boat arrivals. Labor has also retained the patrolling of our borders, which is undertaken by Border Protection Command.

Senator Cormann —Do you actually believe what you are saying?

Senator FARRELL —Yes, I believe exactly what I am saying, because I know that the Australian people rejected your policies on border protection. They turned to Labor. Just like in the current economic crisis, just like with Work Choices, the Australian people know that the only government in Australia that is going to be serious about border protection is the Australian Labor government. We saw that during the Second World War. Who did the Australian people turn to to protect our borders during the Second World War? They turned to Labor. When there is a serious issue confronting the Australian people, they turn to the Australian Labor Party. It is abundantly clear that there is a continuing and constant activity from people smugglers in our region. That is not a problem that has occurred overnight. It has been there for a long time, and we are doing something about it.

As we know, five boats arrived last year with 148 people on board. There were six the previous year with 60 people on board. Under the previous government—your government—there were more arrivals in each of the last two years than there have been this year to date. It is important to remember that people smuggling is an ongoing issue in the region. It has been an issue for many years and it is going to continue to be an issue into the future.

Senator McGauran —You bet.

Senator FARRELL —What matters, Senator McGauran, is how we respond. The Rudd government’s response will be calm and measured. In addition to strong border security measures to deter and detect unauthorised arrivals, the Rudd government regularly engages in the region to address people-smuggling issues. Last month we met with the Indonesian minister for law and human rights for the third time this year. None of the former ministers from the previous government managed this many meetings with such an important neighbour over the last three years of the coalition government, when the numbers of unauthorised boat arrivals were much greater than they are today. In those discussions we agreed on a number of proposals. (Time expired)