National Security

Transcript | Channel 7 Sunrise | 08 April 2024

April 8, 2024

Monday 08 April 2024
Interview on Channel 7 Sunrise
Subjects: Another illegal boat arrival

NATALIE BARR: Let's bring in the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, James Paterson. Good morning to you.

JAMES PATERSON: Good morning.

BARR: So when the Coalition was in power, you also refused to comment on operational matters. Why is this different?

PATERSON: Well, because we didn't have boats making it all the way through to the Australian mainland. There has been three in just the last five months that have made it to the Australian mainland, dropped off asylum seekers and left again without being detected. And that's among 13 boats that have attempted to make the journey to Australia since the election in just the last two years. It's now clear that the Prime Minister has lost control of our borders, and he has no idea what to do to get them back under control again.

BARR: So what do we need to do here?

PATERSON: Number one, reintroduce temporary protection visas that were a key pillar of Operation Sovereign Borders introduced in 2013. And this government abolished them against our warnings. We said that it would start the boats again and that's exactly what's happened. Number two, don't proceed with the planned cuts to Border Force in the upcoming budget - they are projected to reduce by $436 million over the next three years alone. And thirdly, have a minister who actually believes in Operation Sovereign Borders and protecting our borders again. The Minister for Home Affairs, Clare O'Neil, has been out there trashing regional processing, calling it a festering sore. It’s a key pillar of protecting our borders and our community and stopping people making these dangerous journeys at sea.

BARR: Because the head of the Australian Border Force has said funding has been very high over the last few years, so they need even more. Is that what you say?

PATERSON: Well the February budget estimates it showed that there'd be spending of $1.27 billion on border protection this year. Next year it's projected to drop to 1,080,000,000. So taking out about $150 million of funding to Border Force in just one year. Now, that seems like a strange decision to me when you've got boats coming back again, our borders being tested again, and the result of that is that maritime surveillance has dropped by 12%, our aerial surveillance has dropped by 20% on this government's watch. So it's no wonder that boats are getting through again.

BARR: It's been reported that these asylum seekers are of Chinese descent. What diplomatic implications could this have for Australia?

PATERSON: Well, it's certainly very unusual. The last Chinese asylum seekers came in 2012. What we have to understand is why these asylum seekers attempted to come to Australia. Do they have a genuine fear of persecution back home, or are they economic migrants? Some of the other recent boat arrivals have been economic migrants. Some of them have been willing to return home. Others will be given third country resettlement options when they're processed in Nauru. So it depends on the circumstances. If they've got a genuine fear of persecution, they should not be sent back to China.

BARR: Okay. A lot more to come on this. James Paterson, thank you very much for your time.

PATERSON: Thank you.


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