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Labor's flip-flop figures fail to mask weak border approach.

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Media Release


Minister for Justice and Customs

Senator for Western Australia

E107/04 4 August 2004

Labor’s flip-flop figures fail to mask weak border approach

The Australian Government has been completely honest and upfront with the Australian people on the issues of national security and border protection, unlike the Australian Labor Party, the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison, said today.

Senator Ellison said all the Government’s recent announcements on national security had made clear distinctions between new or continued funding to enhance Australia’s national security and border protection measures into the future.

“In stark contrast, Labor has attempted to hoodwink the Australian public with their flip-flop approach to funding Coastguard,” he said.

Labor’s Coastguard proposal has been scaled back from $895 million (in October 2001) to $612 million (in November 2002) to $500 million (an unfunded estimate which accompanied Labor’s fourth attempt at a Coastguard policy in just three years on 30 June this year).

Mr McClelland first claimed last week that there was a “concerning reduction in surveillance funding” in the area of Coastguard contracts (McClelland media release, 27 July).

He has now been forced to agree that the Government “chose to continue funding at the same level of $135 million” (The Australian, 3 August) after his ignorance of the facts was revealed.

These contracts, which involved nine out of 17 planes, will ensure that Dash 8 and Reims aircraft and Bell helicopters are able to continue to carry out surveillance tasks over Australia’s remote coastline and exclusive economic zone until 2007.

The Government also outlined its vision for the future of coastal surveillance on 30 July with an invitation for private firms to tender for a series of vital contracts out to 2019 under the CMS04 banner - a $1 billion commitment to the future.

With first port boarding of vessels by Customs, Mr McClelland claims that there are no new services funded, when the announcement on 20 July clearly stated that the funding would enable an increase in Customs staffing of 19 officers which was announced in the 2004-05 Budget to be extended for another three years:

The $10.6 million in funding for Container Examination Facilities provided in the 2004-05 Budget was not portrayed as “new funding.” The Budget media release announcing this funding stated that: “In addition, funding of $10.6 million over two years has been provided in the 2004-05 Budget for sea cargo examinations. These examinations have increased 20-fold with the opening of container x-ray facilities in Brisbane, Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney. These facilities have already been instrumental in a number of significant seizures of narcotics and cigarettes.” (Ellison media release, 11 May).

In relation to AUSTRAC, extra 2004-05 Budget funding of $46.4 million will enable AUSTRAC to continue a number of programmes commenced in 2003-04, including providing technical assistance to our regional neighbours and tackling drug-related money laundering.

The Budget announcements for AFP presence in Melanesia and the people smuggling strike team also made clear that funding would be continued for two valuable programs: “Funding in the 2004-05 Budget has also enabled continuation of the Joint Strike Team on People Smuggling (and) building on the AFP’s work and presence in the Pacific region.”

Mr McClelland has blundered badly in his attempt to undermine the Government’s strong approach and should apologise to the Parliament and the Australian people for his desperate miscalculations.

Media Inquiries: Simon Troeth (02) 6277 7260/(0439) 300 335