Tuesday, 26 August 2014
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. Will the minister update the House on the humanitarian dividends of the government's successful border protection policies? What steps is the government taking to further strengthen our borders to deal with terrorist threats?
I thank the member for Mitchell for his question and congratulate him and Amelia on the birth of Jack Alexander Hawke. We know that the coalition's successful border protection policies are getting serious dividends for this country. One of those is obviously one I am sure all members of this House would welcome, and that is that there have been no deaths at sea since the introduction of the turn-back policy of this government. Furthermore, there has been the consequence of children now getting out of detention centres and continuing to get out of detention centres.
I can tell you that over the course of the previous government there were 8,469 children who arrived on boats to Australia. Under this government there have been 353, and in our view that is 353 too many. Over the course of less than a year, the number of children in held detention has fallen by more than 40 per cent. That is right across the board at offshore centres like Christmas Island and at mainland centres. There are 565 fewer children in detention today than there were at the time of the last election.+
The other thing that stopping the boats is achieving is enabling us to free up the refugee and humanitarian program. This year there will be 5,000 places in the special humanitarian program. In Labor's last year there were 500. That means there are 4½ thousand additional places in our special humanitarian program this year as a result of one thing, and that is stopping the boats. That is the dividend it is producing.
The entire program has enabled us to allocate in this year 4,400 places to those who are affected by the terrible events in Iraq and in Syria. Those numbers deal not just with those most recently affected but with those whose applications have been waiting in line for some time because this conflict, as deadly and as disastrous as it is, particularly in Syria, has been going on for some time. So it is a good thing that by stopping the boats we can have this humanitarian dividend.
The arm of humanitarianism in relation to this conflict needs to go further in relation to how we deal with the conflict from a national security point of view. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs have outlined measures that we are taking to deal with the terrorist threat here in Australia where the deadly consequences of that conflict there could potentially be felt here. That is why, as part of that package, $150 million has been put into making our borders stronger with special e-gates, with special measures and with additional resources to make sure that our borders are stronger. This will ensure that Australian people can know that their borders are secure under this government.