Monday, 18 February 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. Could the Deputy Prime Minister update the House on the impact on regional Australia of weakening Australia's border protection system?
I thank the member for Cowper for his question and his service to the people of Cowper. When Kevin Rudd took over as Prime Minister in 2007, there were just four adult males in detention centres—only four. After six years of dysfunction and chaos on our borders—and there are those opposite who are still sitting on the frontbench who had responsibility for immigration: the member for Gorton, the member for Watson and the member for McMahon; they all had a go—they could not stem the tide.
Fifty thousand people arrived on our shores. Labor talked about the 'Mediscare' in the campaign in 2016. At that time they did not talk about the fact they put more beds in detention centres than they ever did or ever had the possibility of doing in our public hospitals. There were 800 boats. Sadly, as we heard from Senator Reynolds in a very compelling, heartbreaking speech in the other place last week, Australian Defence Force personnel, those wonderful and brave people, had to reach in and collect dead bodies out of the sea—women and children. They were just some of the 1,200 people who drowned at sea. That's just the number we know of. Goodness knows how many died at sea trying to get here who we don't know of.
The Liberals and Nationals have closed 19 detention centres since coming to government. This has led to savings of more than $500 million. Labor opened 17 detention centres to deal with its policy failures—and they were policy failures—and, if given the opportunity to govern again, led by the member for Maribyrnong, it will happen again. $16 billion was wasted under those opposite with their weakened border policy. What could that money have been invested in? It could have been invested in the Pacific Highway, in the member for Cowper's electorate. It could have been invested in the Princes Highway or the Bruce Highway. It could also have been invested in building a better regional Australia and building a better regional north coast through such things as we are investing in—the Building Better Regions Fund, the stronger communities fund and all of those great funds that help such things as the Kempsey Swimming Club, the Macksville junior cricket club and all the other things that we've funded.
The people of Cowper know that the only person they can trust to keep delivering the investment and the certainty that Cowper needs, wants, deserves and expects is Pat Conaghan. Pat Conaghan is the only one that the people of Cowper can trust. (Time expired)