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Thursday, 6 March 2014
Page: 1913

Immigration Programs

Mr VARVARIS (Barton) (15:02): My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. What action is the government taking to ensure that those waiting offshore to apply legitimately for a place in our refugee and humanitarian program receive an opportunity for resettlement in Australia?

Mr MORRISON (CookMinister for Immigration and Border Protection) (15:03): I thank the member for Barton for his question, because I know that like me and members on this side of the House—and I hope those on the other side of the House—we have a very keen interest in ensuring that there is fair access to our refugee and Special Humanitarian Program. I know there are many people in Barton who feel the same, because he has brought these matters to my attention, and I know that he is pleased with the progress we are making with the Special Humanitarian Program, which I am keen to update the House upon.

Our border protection policies deliver many things. The first of those of course is that they are saving lives at sea. I am pleased once again to update the House that it is 77 days today—11 weeks—since there has been a successful people-smuggling venture to this country, and that is principally because of the front-line maritime operations being performed by our Navy and our Customs and Border Protection Service. Last Friday, the Prime Minister and I along with member for Solomon had the opportunity to thank those directly involved in those exercises. I know that those up in NORCOM now and those at Larrakeyah and other places who often through NORCOM will be seeing today's proceedings. They know that members of this House are deeply appreciative of the work that they are doing.

The other thing this is achieving is ending the injustice where more than 15,000 people under the previous government's policies were denied places in our refugee and Special Humanitarian Program because the places under that program were given to those who had come on boats. Specifically within the Special Humanitarian Program, when we lost office in 2007-08 as a coalition, there were 4,706 places in that program. In their last year in office those who now sit opposite had 503 places. This year that program will once again have an additional 4,000 places in the Special Humanitarian Program.

As part of our program, I have announced today that there will be a cap on the onshore applications at the current planning levels. This will enable us to meet the commitment of 11,000 places, a commitment that will go to people who have applied offshore. We have de-linked the program so that if you come by boat and you are sitting waiting here now, you will not get a permanent visa from this government. You will only get a temporary visa and those places that are preserved for offshore applicants will go to those applicants. There will be 11,000 including 1,000 for women at risk. That is what the dividend is of strong border protection. When you run your borders well and when you manage your borders well, then you can save lives at sea. You can ensure that our refugee and humanitarian program has integrity in that the places go to those who we decide will come here, not the people smugglers.