Australian Customs and Border Protection Service


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (19:11): I rise to speak on the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service Report 2010-11, and its correction, and I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I commence my remarks by again congratulating those people who work in the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. Theirs is a magnificent role. We see them at every international airport and at seaports around the country. They do a fabulous job of protecting Australia from importations that we do not want. That is a very broad description but it accurately reflects some of the work that the Customs and Border Protection Service does.

Unfortunately in recent years the Customs and Border Protection Service has spent a very considerable part of its budget on trying to somehow regulate the almost unregulated flow of boats coming into Australia from Indonesia containing people who are, quite frankly, jumping the immigration queue to get into Australia. I always make this point: I, and I think I can speak for most senators, welcome immigration into Australia, but we must have immigration that is orderly. And I often make the point that there are people living in squalid refugee camps right around the world waiting their turn to get to the promised land which is Australia. But, when 'boat people' come into Australia out of order, it means that people who have been waiting their turn for so long have to wait yet another year to have their chance of getting into Australia. This is what concerns me most about the breaches of our borders by what are, in fact, illegal maritime arrivalsI think that is the latest terminology for people who come in without proper papers, without proper order and without any regulation. Mr Acting Deputy President Marshall, as you know, this huge influx of illegal maritime arrivals happens because the current government simply cannot put into place the policies necessary to stop the boats, and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, whose report we are dealing with today, do a major part of the role of trying to collect the illegal maritime arrivals and take them to Christmas Island, and they spend much of their time doing that sort of work which, quite frankly, was not their original purpose.

We know how we can send the Australian Customs and Border Protection people back to what I might call their regular jobs, and that is to stop the boats. And you can stop the boats by making it clear that people who come to Australia by that means go to Nauru, get a temporary protection visa and are dealt with in accordance with the general rules of entry into Australia. They are not queue-jumping those who have been waiting in squalid refugee camps around the world.

I have spoken to the customs and border protection people on the Bay class patrol boats. They do a fabulous job. They never complain. As is appropriate for people in government employ, they never criticise the actions of the government of the day, because they are very professional. But if you get them down the pub later on and have a chat to them, you will know that they are as disturbed as the rest of Australia by this unregulated influx of illegal maritime arrivals into our country.

Can I conclude where I started: the people who make up our Customs and Border Protection Service are fabulous people; they are great Australians and they do a great job for Australia. I know they are uncomfortable with the role that they have to play in trying to accommodate the Gillard government's inability to control its borders, but they do that because that is their job. They are very professional and deserve, as always, the support of this parliament. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted.

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