Tuesday, 25 June 2013
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. Is the minister aware that, in the past 12 months, the US Coast Guard has intercepted and returned 1,900 people who attempted to illegally enter US waters? Why does the government claim that the Australian Navy and our Customs and Border Protection Service cannot turn boats around, when the US Coast Guard has been doing so for decades?
I thank the honourable member for the question. I can assure you that we do not want the immigration problems that the United States have in relation to the Rio Grande. If you want to talk about numbers coming into the United States, I can assure you that they have a much greater challenge than we have. That is partly the problem with this debate. There is a sense by those opposite—
One of the problems with those opposite is that there is a sense that this challenge insofar as dealing with people seeking asylum is one that only this country confronts, when in fact that is not the case. Almost all First World nations have this challenge and deal with this in the way in which they have to.
Can I also say with respect to the question asked by the member for Solomon that the one thing about this government is that we seek the advice of the experts and we seek the advice of the agencies, including the Australian Defence Force. The problem we have with those opposite is that they will not listen to the defence personnel who have suggested that the proposition put to turn people back—
Mr Robb interjecting—
and turn vessels back on the high seas is very dangerous for the men, women and children on those vessels and is very dangerous for our own personnel on our vessels. Yet those opposite continue not to listen to the experts with respect to that advice. That is because they have total contempt for our naval and customs personnel.
We saw that displayed by the member for Cook, who just asked a question and then belittled the brave efforts of our customs and naval personnel. I was there on 15 December 2010 and I saw the absolute courage and valour of our personnel plucking people from the sea. You think it is a joke, Member for Cook. Well, it is not a joke. The fact is that we will continue to listen to the same security agencies that were listened to by the Howard government.
The difference here of course is that we have a Leader of the Opposition who does not listen to expert advice. He did not listen to the expert advice when it came to the global financial crisis. He will not listen to the expert advice when it comes to border protection. He will not listen to the expert advice when it comes to refugee settlement. This is an opposition who are all about slogans and empty promises, who never listen to the advice of the experts and continue to abuse and have little regard for our naval and customs personnel. This question is an outrageous slur on them, and you should hang your head in shame!
Speaker, my supplementary question is to the minister who has just been at the dispatch box. It is a very simple question. If the US Coast Guard has the professionalism to turn around boats, why does he say that the Australian Navy lacks the same professionalism?
This government will continue to take the advice of our agencies, and that includes the Navy. I understand that the opposition does not support that position, but we will always have regard and defer to those agencies who do the hard work and indeed endanger their own lives—and not the Leader of the Opposition.
Opposition members interjecting—