Australian Customs and Border Protection Service - 10/07/2014

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (18:04): I would like to take note of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service report for 2012-13. I do want to congratulate the Customs and Border Protection Service, not only on their report that has been tabled in the Senate but on the work that they do generally. It is a vast organisation and it employs many Australians in all different facets of work. Whilst in recent times we know of the great work they have been doing in Operation Sovereign Borders, protecting Australia's borders, we should also remember that every time we come through an international airport or have goods come through a sea port the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service are there doing a fabulous job. I congratulate their leadership and, indeed, each and every individual working for the service.

It is not an easy job. Operation Sovereign Borders, as we have heard, is a complex and difficult operation. There have been media reports and questions asked in this Senate by the Labor Party and the Greens about what might be happening on the high seas at the moment. Sensibly, the government has not commented. But you get all of these comments and you might ask, 'Where do the Labor Party and the Greens political party get this information from?' Is it from the people smugglers? Is it from the criminals? Certainly, the criminals' modus operandi—their business operation—only flourishes because the Labor Party and the Greens continually give succour to those criminals and, in fact, publicise their businesses.

I read in the paper about parents being very concerned about the fate of their children who are allegedly on these boats. I ask those parents: why did they let their children get onto these very small boats for hazardous journeys allegedly, according to newspaper reports, coming from India to Australia?

Yet these parents are distraught, so they say, about the fate of their children. I cannot help but think: why would you allow your spouse, your children and your grandchildren to get on those leaky boats? Why would you pay people smugglers a lot of money to take that hazardous journey that could well end in tragedy? That disturbs me. That is why I am so pleased that the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service have, at the direction of Minister Morrison, been so good at protecting lives by stopping that vile, illegal trade.

We all have sympathy for refugees living their lives in squalid detention camps right around the world, waiting for their chance to come to Australia. But then we read in the paper today that many of those on these Sri Lankan boats were not coming here because they feared for their lives or their liberty in the country they were leaving. Rather, they quite openly said that they had come to Australia for a better job, for a better education for their kids—and I well appreciate that. That is something any parent would do. But it does not fall under the Refugee Convention.

Australia has a very generous refugee program under which we do take genuine refugees, but when people who, by their own admission, are not genuine refugees attempt to jump the queue, that makes it all the more difficult for those who are genuine refugees—who have been determined to be genuine refugees—waiting in those squalid refugee camps around the world, waiting desperately for their chance to get to Australia. That is why I am so pleased with the work the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service do, the sort of work mentioned in their report for 2012-13. I conclude by again congratulating all those involved in the fabulous work they do for Australia.

Question agreed to.

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