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Announcement of border protection policy, Observation City, Scarborough, Perth: transcript.



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23 October 2001

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP ANNOUNCEMENT OF BORDER PROTECTION POLICY OBSERVATION CITY, SCARBOROUGH, PERTH

E&OE……………………………………………………………………………………….

Thank you very much Bob. Philip Ruddock, Chris Ellison, Kim Keough, Allen Eggleston, Sue Knowles, David Johnston, other parliamentary colleagues, ladies and gentlemen. It is for me a particular delight to come to the division of Stirling in a political sense to carry the fight into a seat held by the Australian Labor Party with a resolve to win this seat back to the Coalition on the 10th of November, and to express my very strong support to the outstanding candidate in Bob Cronin that we have carrying the Liberal banner here in the seat of Stirling.

Political battles are fought at two levels. They’re fought at a national level and they’re also fought at a local level. And in order to win you need to have the right message and a strong consistent theme at both levels. And I’ve got every confidence that you have a strong consistent theme here in the division of Stirling with such a candidate.

The other reason why I’m particularly pleased to be here this morning is I have the opportunity right on the edge of the Indian Ocean to launch a policy which is very important to Australia’s future. And the policy is entitled - “Protecting our Borders”. And unlike the Labor Party’s border protection policy which is only $15 million more to create a new bureaucracy that will do great damage to the Royal Australian Navy, the policy I launch today commits the Coalition if it is re-elected to spend an additional $175 million over a period of four years in additional border protection measures.

The contrast could not be starker. Labor is offering $15 million more and a new bureaucracy and damage to the Royal Australian Navy. We are offering the maintenance of Coastwatch which has delivered a 98.6% success rate in coping with illegal immigration, plus an additional $175 million in new investment in different ways to improve the operation of our Coastwatch capacity. It is a very clear difference. We have a plan for the future in relation to further strengthening Coastwatch. The Labor Party offers a new bureaucracy and in the process do great damage to the Royal Australian Navy.

PRIME MINISTER

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The challenges that Australia now faces in relation to border protection includes people smuggling, often organised on an international scale; internationally controlled rings of illegal drug traffickers; well organised and resourced terrorist groups; transnational crime syndicates; the relatively new phenomenon of sophisticated cyber crime; new outbreaks of old health challenges such as tuberculosis; outbreaks of foot and mouth and other potentially devastating diseases; threats to native wild life, and illegal fishing operations in Australian waters.

Australia’s security in the hands of highly trained committed professionals, the Defence Force, Customs, the Australian Federal Police, and AQIS, their border protection activities at present are coordinated by a world class surveillance network known as Coastwatch. Coastwatch is here now, it works 98.6 success rate in the relation to the interception of illegals. And we are determined to maintain that record of success. But not being idle, we’re going to augment it in a very significant way with the new resources, the new investment, the new initiative, the new policy that I’m announcing today in the area of border protection. We’re acting on a realistic plan to further strengthen our borders and invest record amounts in defence, law enforcement and other security agencies.

The package being announced today under the description of “Protecting our Borders” entails as I said an expenditure of $175 million of additional money over a period of four years. We’ve chosen to focus on the vital areas of maritime surveillance, enhancing our radar and communications capacity, and detecting illegal material being smuggled into ports. It’s far better to spend $175 million on that than to spend $15 million more on a new bureaucracy, at great cost to the operations of the Royal Australian Navy.

The Protecting our Borders package will build on a the success achieved in recent times, illustrated by the 98.6% of people suspected of entering Australia illegally being intercepted. The Labor plan will undo all of that with a one size fits all bureaucratic approach. Its immediate effect would be to strip the Royal Australian Navy of 15 patrol boats, take $430 million from the defence acquisition budget, and transfer the positions of 600 sailors who now crew and maintain the patrol boats thus reducing Australia’s overall defence capability and lowering morale within the service. This is the worst possible time to fragment any of the resources of the ADF, any of the resources of the Royal Australian Navy. It is a disgrace that the alternative government of this country should put forward a policy that would in any way have the potential to lower the morale or to fragment the personnel structure of the Royal Australian Navy.

Labor’s coastguard idea will not provide for one single new vessel, plane, radar installation, or patrol boat. Their plans are both dangerous and impractical. By contrast our policy, specifically outlined in the document I’m releasing today, directs resources to the sharp end of border security. That is where it matters.

Firstly we will strengthen Australia’s expensive radar network with $12.8 million in additional funding to conduct an operational valuation of new high frequency surface wave radar technology. This will significantly increase the surveillance coverage of high threat approaches to Australia. We will significantly expand Coastwatch surveillance flights monitoring the northern approach routes to Australia. An additional $33.2 million over four years will increase flight surveillance time by 1600 hours. We will double Custom’s National Marine Unit’s surveillance and response capability with additional funding of $72.4 million over four years.

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The package also provides for the purchase of additional container x-ray machines for Fremantle and Brisbane ports by providing a further $39.8 million over four years, and a further $9.2 million over four years for four additional palate x-ray machines for Customs in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide. We’ll allocate an additional funding $8.1 million over four years to utilise the latest digital and satellite technologies, enhancing Coastwatch’s communication capability.

These are all new measures, they will bring additional state of the art technology to all of the operating elements of the existing coast watch surveillance network. They will build on new initiatives we have already announced. And they include the replacement of the Navy’s 15 Fremantle patrol boats with a new class of patrol boat to be built in Australia at a cost of $450 million. The undertaking of a major refurbishment or replacement of the RAAF’s P3C long range maritime surveillance aircraft at a cost of some $2 billion and the allocation of $275 million to significantly enhance Australia’s over the horizon radar capabilities. The investment of $160 million in the development and future purchase of the global hawk surveillance aircraft and the purchase of four airborne early warning control aircraft.

To meet the challenge of people smuggling in addition the Coalition has already introduced tough new laws to curb trafficking in people, including jail sentences of up to 20 years and fines of up to $220,000. Legislation which has excised Christmas Island, Ashmore and Cartier Islands and Cocos Keeling Islands from the migration zone. And also the negotiation of off shore processing arrangements with a number of countries in the pacific area.

So in this area as in so many other areas - border protection, there is a clear choice offered to the Australian people. It is now only on the one hand what the Coalition has done in government and that is establish Coastwatch, an effective surveillance and protection network which has a 98.6 per cent success rate, but also a determination on our part to do something about the illegal immigration problem over a number of years. We’ve had a lot of debate in the last few weeks about who’s done what in this area, I do know this and my colleague Phillip Ruddock whose handled his portfolio responsibilities in this area magnificently and to the great credit of his reputation.

For two years we’ve been trying to get tougher legislation through the Senate and it was only the onset of an election and the likely harsh judgment of the Australian people that induced the Australian Labor Party to finally let that legislation go through the Senate. And this morning may I say we’ve had the absolutely contemptible contribution of the Leader of the Opposition in the wake of that appalling human tragedy where something like 350 lives appear to have been lost when a vessel sank in Indonesian waters, probably containing people wanting to come to Australia. It sank in Indonesian waters, yet Mr Beazley has tried to exploit that human tragedy to score a cheap political point. He implied that that happened because of a failure of policy on our part. I think that is contemptible. It’s alright to attack your opponent on legitimate grounds but to try and score a cheap political point out of an immense human tragedy such as that I regard as completely contemptible. If anybody is to be blamed for that appalling tragedy it’s the people smugglers, not the Government of Australia, not the Government of Indonesia but the people smugglers. And for the alternative Prime Minister of Australia to try and score a cheap political out of that is as I say absolutely contemptible.

Ladies and gentlemen this election campaign is about many issues. It is about who you want to govern the country in very difficult and challenging times, not only difficult and

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challenging from a military and strategic point of view but also from an economic point of view. It’s an election campaign which is not only about what is said during the five weeks of the campaign but it’s also an election about what people have done and not done over the last five and a half years. My opponent talks a lot about accountability. Well I am happy to be accountable to the Australian people for what I’ve done over the last five and a half years. I’m happy to looking back on where Australia was five and a half years ago and happy to compare that with where we are now. And I’m also happy to be judged on what we put forward to the Australian people during the course of the election campaign. And today I have launched a border protection policy, here in Western Australia, here on the edge of the Indian Ocean in the division of Stirling which presents a very clear contrast. We not only have the record which is better than Labor’s but we have the plan for the future which is better Labor’s. They have $15 million in a new bureaucracy that will hurt the Royal Australian Navy, we have the maintenance of a system that’s delivered more than 98 per cent of success and we have a $175 million investment in strengthening in practical ways our capacity to deal not only with people smuggling and illegal immigration but also with the drug menace. Cause what this policy does today will further underpin the unrelenting, unremitting campaign of this government against the surge of drugs. I will have more to say about that issue as the campaign develops. I’ll be unveiling new measures in the government’s fight against the menace of drugs. But integral to that is our capacity to protect our borders. We have the runs on the board, we’ve achieved that success rate, we have a plan. Labor has a bureaucratic rearrangement which will damage the Royal Australian Navy.

Finally my friends can I say in relation to this particular policy how proud I am of the tremendous contribution that two of my ministers have made. Phillip Ruddock who’ve I’ve already mentioned and Chris Ellison of course a native of Western Australia and who’s done an absolutely terrific job in the time that he has been the minister for customs and justice. His work and that of Philip has meant that I’ve had two very safe pairs of hands in a very important area.

Election campaigns are judgments on lots of things, they’re judgements on the past and they’re judgments on future plans. They’re also judgments on the quality of your team. Leadership’s important but no political leader is a one man or a one woman band and should never presume to be so. And the success that I have achieved as Prime Minister has in no small measure been due to the quality of the people who have supported me. And people say ask the question what is a vote for John Howard for? It’s a vote for me, it’s a vote for Peter Costello, it’s a vote for Philip Ruddock, it’s a vote for Chris Ellison, it’s a vote for John Anderson, it’s a vote for a very high quality group of men and women and who’s served this country well.

So I want to record my deep appreciation to both Philip and Chris for the work that they’ve put in as Ministers and the contribution that they have made to the development of this policy, very important to the whole of Australia, particularly important to the people of Western Australia and especially important to the people of the electorate of Stirling.

Final thing I say to you is that this is an important election. In a sense of that word with perhaps other elections in recent times haven’t been. Because we are entering challenging times, they are not times for despair, they’re not times for alarm, they are serious challenging times. We need strength, we need commitment, we need a clear plan for the future and in this very important area of border protection the Coalition has provided that.

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I urge all of you to work your very hearts out to get Bob elected. I need Bob as the Member for Stirling to provide strong government in the future, I really do. And I ask all of you to bend even a little bit of extra effort to make sure that we capture this seat from the Australian Labor Party on the 10 November.

Thank you very much.

[ends]