Question Time - Asylum Seekers

  • Transcript, E&OE

Mr LAMING (Bowman) (14:38): A question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs: will the minister update the House on the importance of shutting down criminal people-smuggling networks? Why is a consistent approach to this issue important?

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:38): I thank the member for Bowman for his question and recognise that he understands the importance of consistency and not hypocrisy in this area. The Australian government remains resolutely committed to the task of preventing criminal people-smuggling networks from plying their terrible trade in our region. The shocking consequences of this trade compelled this government to act decisively, for we must never again allow the tragedy of the 1,200 deaths at sea … We must never again allow the criminal people-smuggling networks to decide who comes to this country. And this House should acknowledge the undoubted success of the military-led Operation Sovereign Borders that brought an integrated, comprehensive policy ... And, under Sovereign Borders, the boats were stopped.

However, yesterday, in a fit of confected outrage, the opposition demanded that the government reveal security or intelligence or operational details of Operation Sovereign Borders. Indeed, the Manager of Opposition Business was literally shouting across the dispatch box. 'A one-word answer will settle this,' he foamed, 'a one-word answer that Australian taxpayers have a right to know.' Yet, later, this very same minister–who is now deeply engaged in conversation which he was not a minute ago–was asked to provide clarification about such matters under the previous Labor government. The shadow minister for immigration and border protection came up with one word: 'unlawful'. He said: 'It is unlawful for the government or the opposition to divulge security or intelligence information.' Oh, is that right! So that was the word was it? 'Unlawful'.

I do not know that members of this House saw the excruciating performance of the Leader of the Opposition about an hour ago, but when he was asked to provide the very same information that had been demanded of the government he refused. So it is okay for the Leader of the Opposition to refuse to reveal operational details but not for the government?

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