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Labor gaffe on interdiction powers.

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9 March 2004 025/2004


The Labor Party has demonstrated a serious misunderstanding of the law in suggesting only a coast-guard can protect our northern borders the Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said today.

The Shadow Minister for Homeland Security Robert McClelland told the Sunday Sunrise program this week that Constitutional restraints mean that:

“We donʹt have an interdiction capacity on our northern border - a maritime interdiction capacity.”

The Labor claims are wrong because the Constitution does allow the Parliament to make laws with respect to the ʹ...control of the forces to execute and maintain the laws of the Commonwealthʹ.*

Under that power, specific amendments have been made under the Government’s border protection measures to the Migration and Customs Acts.

They enabled the Australian Defence Force to enforce laws in the maritime area adjacent to Australia, including the territorial sea and contiguous zone. The measures allowed powers of hot pursuit into international waters.

“Given the high profile activities undertaken by the Defence Forces in interdicting unauthorised arrivals and illegal fishing vessels in recent years, I am surprised that the Opposition would suggest there are no powers to do this,” Mr Ruddock said.

“On this basis, it appears they are basing the argument for a coastguard on fundamentally flawed reasoning.

“It brings into question their ability to properly protect our national interest,” Mr Ruddock said.

Media Contact: Steve Ingram 0419 278 715

*Section 51(vi) of the Constitution

Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600 • Telephone (02) 6277 7300 • Fax (02) 6273 4102