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Thursday, 21 February 2002
Page: 728

Mr PROSSER (2:22 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. Is the minister aware whether passengers have gone into the water from more than one boat attempting to arrive unlawfully on our shores? Would the minister inform the House whether personnel have been obstructed in their attempts to respond to these boats?

Mr RUDDOCK (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Reconciliation) —I thank the honourable member for Forrest for his question.

The SPEAKER —The member for Cowan!

The SPEAKER —The member for Cowan will withdraw that remark!

The SPEAKER —The member for Cowan will withdraw that remark!

Mr Edwards —Mr Speaker, I withdraw the fact that I called the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs Goebbels.

The SPEAKER —The member for Cowan will withdraw the remark unconditionally or I will deal him.

Mr Edwards —I called him Goebbels—

The SPEAKER —The member for Cowan will excuse himself from the House under the provisions of standing order 304A. It is quite unacceptable behaviour.

The member for Cowan then left the chamber.

Mr RUDDOCK —Thank you very much for the opportunity to elaborate on some of the facts that ought to be known. I notice that the opposition very much seems to want to get out some of the facts in relation to these matters, but when people are going to elaborate on some of the other facts they do not seem to want to hear them. I am aware of reports which record passengers on boats seeking to frustrate efforts to return them from where they have come. This House is already aware of an incident involving SIEV4 on 7 and 8 October last year when more than 200 men, women and children were forced into the water when their boat was `deliberately sabotaged'—in the words in the report that I read yesterday—by the suspected unlawful arrivals. They were the people who were responsible and that was the information that was clearly conveyed to the Senate.

But people jumping into the water has happened before, and it has happened since. The fact is that on 17 December four people jumped off a boat which was later sabotaged, and again it was Navy personnel that were forced to place themselves at risk in order to rescue those people involved. There was a similar incident reported to have occurred the next day involving the same vessel.

I am sure members would be interested to know whether young children were involved. In evidence before the Senate committee that has been brought to my attention about a vessel which arrived at Ashmore Island on 22 October, Admiral Shackleton had this to say:

SIEV7 was a vessel which had entered Australian waters and was at anchor on Ashore Island, Ashmore Reef, in that lagoon. It was in company with the Customs vessel, the Roebuck Bay, and a naval patrol boat, the Bendigo. During the incident, as it were, I think it was about 15 people from the vessel jumped into the water, one woman amongst several women held a child over the side, a young child, by its wrists, and the child was dropped into the water. The child was recovered by one of the people in the water, who swam to the child, raised it from the water and then they were subsequently brought out of the water and back to the vessel.

The SPEAKER —Member for Fowler!

Mr RUDDOCK —Admiral Shackleton was subsequently asked by Senator Brandis—

The SPEAKER —The member for Fowler!

The SPEAKER —The member for Fowler is defying the chair!

Mr RUDDOCK —whether there was a belief among naval personnel—

The SPEAKER —The member for Fowler is warned!

Mr RUDDOCK —that children were being thrown overboard and that that was not uncommon. I want to quote him; you said you want to listen to some naval officers. He replied:

If you were asking is there a belief that this is a common event, then I would have to say that that is probably the case.

Our Navy and the border control personnel should not be subjected to behaviour of this kind in carrying out their responsibilities and their duties. More importantly, children should never be placed in that sort of situation.