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Thursday, 27 May 2010
Page: 4426

Mr ABBOTT (Leader of the Opposition) (2:00 PM) —Mr Speaker, my question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to his 2007 promise to be tough on border protection, to maintain offshore processing and, in his own words, ‘to turn around the boats to keep our borders secure.’ Since he made that commitment, no boats have been turned around, there have been record numbers of illegal boat arrivals, the Christmas Island detention centre is full, people arriving illegally are regularly transferred to the mainland, the Curtin detention centre is set to re-open and there have been at least two breakouts from the Villawood detention centre. I ask: given the Prime Minister’s failure on border protection, will he now adopt the coalition’s border protection policies, which worked when we were last in government and will work again when we are next in government?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —I notice that the once great Liberal Party has hauled up the surrender flag on tax policy and has now moved on to a debate on border protection. It took just three days of debate in this chamber on tax before they returned to old faithful. The Leader of the Opposition referred to coalition policy. The question arises as to whether this particular policy actually went through the coalition party room. This has been a matter of some debate today and we turn to our good friend the member for Cook, who had an interesting discussion on a radio program in Melbourne early this morning on 3AW. Neil Mitchell asked the member for Cook this question:

Mitchell: Has this gone through the party room yet?

Morrison: It has gone through our internal processes, as our policies do, and that is appropriate.

Mitchell: So has it gone through the party room yet?

Morrison: It has gone through our internal processes. It is official coalition policy.

Mitchell: What does that mean?

Morrison: It has been signed off the way we sign off policy. That is what happened Neil.

Mitchell: Does that involve the party room?

Morrison: It enjoys the strong support of the party room.

Ten times he was asked this question; ten times he refused to answer. We know why because the member for Kooyong has already belled the cat. There was no internal party room process. Which begs the question: is this the full gospel truth or is it the Tony Abbott truth? Is it in writing or is it not in writing?

Can I say this in response to the Leader of the Opposition’s question: back in March in Melbourne he came out through the Melbourne Herald Sun guaranteeing he would stop the boats and shut the border. That was his guarantee on 31 March. Two months later, it is pretty interesting to hear what the Leader of the Opposition had to say in a press conference earlier today. Listen carefully to what the Leader of the Opposition said today when asked to provide the same guarantee. The journalist asked, ‘Can you guarantee that you will stop the boats?’

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat.

Mr Sidebottom interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Braddon does not assist. He will settle down. The House will come to order. A question has been asked and the Prime Minister is responding. The Prime Minister will relate his material to the question.

Mr RUDD —Today at the press conference the Leader of the Opposition was asked by a journalist, ‘Can you guarantee that you will stop the boats?’ Abbott replied, ‘Someone else with a question?’ The favourite one was the last question of the press conference. The journalist asked, ‘Do you guarantee that this policy will stop the boats coming?’ Tony Abbott replied: ‘Thank you. Thanks. Thank you. Thank you.’ That is what I call definitive public policy. That is what I call a rock solid, iron clad guarantee. That is what I call straight-talking Tony. That is what I call full gospel Tony. What we do know is that, if we do not get it in writing from Tony, we should not give it any attention at all.