Wednesday 24th February 2010
SCOTT MORRISON: Well the government’s announcements last night and introduced into the parliament today about people smuggling are frankly too little too late.
After 82 boats arriving on their watch and some two years have passed, this is what it has taken for the government to act. At the end of the day they are missing the big point – that is why are people seeking to come to Australia in this way, in this illegal way? And it is because of the pull factors being created by the magnetic impact of the government’s border protection policies. They dismantled the effective border protection regime that they inherited from the coalition and as a result we have had the rate of boat arrivals has increased from 3 per year over 6 years under the coalition to 1 a week and now 2 a week. In the summer months alone we have had 26 boats arrive, we have had 14 boats arrive in just this new calendar year.
This issue is out of control and the government’s attempts to blame everything other than their own policies is what is really at stake here. I mean this is a government that took a soft option on the Oceanic Viking. This is a government who handed over permanent protection visas to the survivors of the SIEV 36 while there was still investigations proceeding on that matter and still have not concluded. This is a government who only last October though handing out volley ball nets in Sri Lanka was an effective means of border protection.
This government needs to understand that they’re the problem and they need to end their denial of the magnetic impact of their own failed border protection policies. That is what they must address. They are the hard decisions they have to take, but all we see from them is blaming everything other than themselves.
JOURNALIST: Aren’t expanded powers for ASIO, heavier fines and gaol terms, aren’t those going to help combat the people smugglers?
SCOTT MORRISON: The Coalition is supporting these measures but our simple point is this. These are the things that aren’t driving this trade. What is driving this trade is the product and this government has value added this like no one prior.
This is a government that dismantled a border protection regime that was working. They went and broke something that didn’t need fixing and as a result we have a rate of arrival now which is just running unabated and it is going to continue to increase.
As we know Christmas Island is full to overflowing and the government’s next step is to say well we will just bring people straight to the mainland and that will have an obvious impact in terms of further pull factors in terms of the people smuggling trade.
The other thing to point out is the people who come on the boats, and I am talking about the crew, are abused by the people smugglers also. They have very little knowledge of what they are getting into particularly the younger crew members who effectively have become people smugglers mules. There will be no shortage, sadly, of poor fishers in Indonesia who will be available to be used by the people smuggling trade. They will arrive, as I saw some of them when I was on Christmas Island recently, and the people who looked most worried getting off that boat quite frankly were the young crew who had no idea what they were getting into.
JOURNALIST: Because under these laws, they are the people who will face the tougher penalties and up to [inaudible] years jail.
SCOTT MORRISON: That is right.
JOURNALIST: Are you saying that they go too far for the people you would describe as potential victims here as well – the crews of these boats?
SCOTT MORRISON: Well I don’t oppose the penalties and I don’t oppose the measures the government is introducing. I think we should be tough on these things. But at the end of the day the problem is the policies that the government has put in place that have created the pull factor. That is the problem. The government continues to deny this day in – day out as every new boat arrives. I mean the arrival of a new boat at Christmas Island is a twice weekly occurrence. It is not that extraordinary. Maybe this is the Government’s plan. We will get so used to this we will just accept it. Well the coalition will not accept it. We didn’t accept it in government. This government may be prepared to accept this unabated rate of arrivals but in government we will stop it.
JOURNALIST: Do you think ASIO needs more resources to do this job?
SCOTT MORRISON: Well what is unclear is the Shadow Attorney General George Brandis has been asking today and rightly; where are the resources to back up the additional powers? This is a government who would rather fake it than make it when it comes to effective border protection. They talk tough- this is a Prime Minister, who remember said before the last election on election eve in fact, I will turn back the boats. He rolls out the tough rhetoric but when it actually comes to deliver these policies on the ground he is nowhere to be found. He didn’t even inform himself, he says, of the of special deal offered to the 78 tamils on the Oceanic Viking. When national security was at stake, 4 people who were given an adverse ASIO security assessment ultimately were brought to Australia because of that deal. This is a Prime Minister who didn’t even know what was in the deal.
JOURNALIST: I know you have said the Liberal Party is broadly supportive of the plan the government has put forward, but is the Liberal Party comfortable with using an intelligence agency like ASIO to move into a new field like this one?
SCOTT MORRISON: What these measures effectively say is that people smuggling has become a national security issue and obviously the Coalition has no quibble with that. It is a national security issue and what I want to know, again, is why the Prime Minister, if he is so concerned about national security, why he literally chose not to inform himself of the deal that was offered to the Oceanic Viking passengers – a deal secured with the Indonesian government. A deal he denies to have had any knowledge of at the time it was offered, but yet had obvious national security implications for Australia. His National Security Adviser or his deputy attended every single meeting during the course of the negotiations on that deal. Now I couldn’t see John Howard in a similar circumstances or Tony Abbott trying to avoid eye contact with his National Security Adviser for a period of 4 weeks over a issue of national security. But that is what this Prime Minister did. He stands there yesterday pronouncing his national security credentials but when the heat is on and the decisions need to be taken, he was hiding in his office.
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