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Wednesday, 30 May 2018
Page: 5050


Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (16:04): I've got a series of questions for the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. Minister, I want to commend the frontline officers in the Australian Border Force for the important work they do in protecting our borders, particularly in Far North Queensland, the Torres Strait and North Queensland. Their work includes operations to combat transnational crime and prevent drug running, and those officers protect our environment and tourism industry by shutting down illegal fishing ventures in the Torres Strait, North Queensland and Far North Queensland. It is critical that these officers have the best and most reliable equipment available to them to do their job, something I'm sure that all members of this chamber would agree with. Minister, why, then, in the last 12 months have two ABF vessels in North Queensland crashed into or scraped against the Great Barrier Reef?

It's been revealed that the front was torn off the Roebuck Bay vessel at a cost of $3 million. Now we're hearing one of the new fast-response boats has scraped a reef after issues with the navigational system. Minister, are these the same fast-response vessels or boats that you promised the people of Cairns and Far North Queensland in 2015 that were delayed time and time again until 2018? Minister, your department has admitted it knows what's wrong with the navigational system on this vessel. Minister, could you tell the chamber what's wrong with the navigational equipment and does it affect both new fast-response boats? Will you explain which reef was hit in particular, what damage was sustained, how long it will take to repair, and what the cost will be? What's the opportunity cost as well?

What are the national security implications for the people of Far North Queensland, the Torres Strait and North Queensland? Minister, will you announce for the people of Cairns, Far North Queensland and North Queensland today when these fast-response vessels will be fully operational and glitch-free? Minister, is it true they will now have to wait until August for the two new fast-response boats to be repaired and fully operational? And when these boats are finally delivered, will the government have an answer for how lead and Legionella has been detected in the onboard water supply for the ABF Cape Class vessels?

These issues were first reported in December 2017. In estimates last week, when these issues were raised by Labor, the Australian Border Force officer listed a range of possibilities but, ultimately, admitted: 'I can't answer your question specifically, because I don't know the answer.' Minister, when will you know the answer and tell us the answer? And while you're there, it was reported in November 2017 that the same Cape Class vessels were struggling to launch smaller response craft. I believe your department calls these boats 'tender response vessels' and, in November 2017, the department admitted it was trying to resolve 'an issue relating to the operation of ships' boats on some Cape Class patrol boats'. Minister, have all these issues been resolved? And are all these Cape Class vessels now operating as they should?