Responding to irregular maritime arrivals”

Media release by the Honourable Brendan O’Connor MP, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship


Tuesday, 14 May 2013

The Gillard Government will implement additional measures in this Budget to combat the dangerous people smuggling trade.

The government is managing the global issue of growing numbers of displaced persons at an additional cost of $3.2 billion over the four years to 2015-16.

Official development assistance eligible expenses associated with irregular maritime arrivals are expected to be $943 million higher over the four years to 2015-16. The government will cap the amount of expenditure in the ODA Budget for irregular maritime arrival eligible expenses at $375 million per year.

Obviously the current arrival rate is not acceptable in terms of the risks to human life, or the impact on the Budget. The government is making reasonable provision for associated financial costs in the Budget and is taking further action to stop people from risking their lives on dangerous boat journeys.

We will commission a comprehensive review of the refugee status determination process to ensure that we continue to meet our international obligations, but also that our final acceptance rates for comparable cohorts are consistent with other countries.

We’ll also invest in a range of measures to strengthen regional co-operation on irregular migration, including:

  • Providing the AFP with resources to work with regional law enforcement agencies to arrest people smugglers and disrupt their networks
  • Building capacity at international airports to detect and deter irregular migration and conducting communications campaigns in source countries
  • Further international engagement and capacity building, including securing the cooperation of regional governments for the return of failed asylum seekers.

The government will continue to pursue implementation of the Malaysia Arrangement and develop other initiatives to strengthen the region’s response to irregular migration.

We took significant steps last year in working with the Sri Lankan government, which resulted in the return of over 1000 Sri Lankan arrivals since August. And we are developing similar arrangements with other source countries.

The Opposition can’t have it both ways. They can’t complain about the costs associated with the arrival rate while continuing to stand in the way of further measures recommended by the experts – like the Malaysia Arrangement – that would have a real impact on arrivals as part of a suite of measures.

They’ve gone from saying that they would stop the boats within months to giving no commitment that they could achieve it over the course of the next parliament.

They say they would ‘turn back the boats’ which our Navy says will put our service men and women at risk – and even Tony Abbott admits it is dangerous. We also know that the Indonesian Government won’t agree to turn backs.

They say they will reintroduce temporary protection visas, but over 8000 people arrived by boat in the two years after TPVs were introduced by the Howard government, and the overwhelming majority stayed in Australia permanently.

They’re living in the past if they think Howard-era policies will work.

Their reckless approach to this issue since the High Court’s ruling in August 2011 has contributed to the challenge that Australia faces today. It is time for the Opposition to act in the national interest rather than pursue their base political objectives.

The Greens on the other hand are not prepared to do anything to discourage asylum seekers from making the dangerous trip to Australia by boat.

Only Labor has squared with the Australian community on this most complex policy area.

The Gillard Government is the only party truly working to prevent dangerous journeys and reducing the number of irregular boat arrivals and we will continue to consider what else can be done to address this global problem.