House debates

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: National Security

2:39 pm

Photo of Angie BellAngie Bell (Moncrieff, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Home Affairs. Will the minister outline to the House border measures the Morrison government has put in place to protect Australians from the COVID-19 pandemic? And how are the dedicated staff at Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force working to keep Australians safe?

Photo of Peter DuttonPeter Dutton (Dickson, Liberal Party, Minister for Home Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to say thank you very much to the member for Moncrieff and start by acknowledging the wonderful work that she's done at Southport, where through her advocacy she's been able to encourage the government to open another border clearance station, which will bring a lot of jobs and economic activity to the Gold Coast. It really is a very good outcome.

All of us are incredibly proud of the work that the men and women of the Australian Border Force have done at our borders over the course of the last couple of months. They're exceptional law enforcement officers, and they have represented our government—our country—very well, and I think their families should be very proud of the work that those individuals have done. They've contributed to the safety of our country and they've contributed to the health outcome that we've been able to achieve through this pandemic.

In addition to that, I want to pay tribute to the officers at the Department of Home Affairs, many of whom have been involved in all different aspects of the Home Affairs response to this pandemic and also many who have gone across to Services Australia and to other government departments to try to supplement the support there to provide early access to payments for Australians who are in need. Also I want to make mention of the Australian Federal Police officers who around the country have been involved in frontline services, in particular almost 100 officers who have gone to the Northern Territory to provide support to the Northern Territory police to help protect Indigenous communities from the COVID virus there. They've been incredibly successful, and I really pay tribute to them.

In this week last year we had about 363,000 people who arrived by air into our country. Over the last seven days, 6,112 people have arrived. There's been a 98 per cent downturn, which has been a significant change for the Australian Border Force workload, and many of those officers now have been able to go into other parts of the Border Force business. For example, they've gone into looking at ways in which we can reduce inbound contraband. They've done a lot of work in outbound as well, and they have detected, heading out from our country, about 450,000 face masks. They have detected 142 consignments containing over 9,000 units of hand sanitiser. At a time in this pandemic when we had shortages here in our country, we wanted to make sure that we could divert that product that was being sent overseas back for the use of Australians through the National Stockpile. They have been incredibly successful and, again, they should be very proud of the work they've been able to do.

So, I thank them for their service. I say to all Australians that we should be very grateful for the way in which they quickly enacted the government's direction to close our borders. It was done in a very short period of time—one of the first nations of the world to do so. And it has directly resulted in the amazing outcomes we've been able to achieve for our country.