National Security: Citizenship

Senator McGRATH: I, too, would like to take note of the answers given by Senator Brandis to questions from Senators Wong, Collins and O'Neill. The answer given to especially Senator O'Neill's question comes down to what we are doing on border security.

It is interesting that we take the word of a people smuggler, someone who appears on television wearing a balaclava. I think this comes down to the different approach taken between our parties. It is the coalition who have strengthened the borders and have strengthened border security in this country. It is the coalition who have stopped the boats. It is the coalition who have put a steel border up—

Senator Lines: Paid the boats.

Senator McGRATH: I am happy to take interjections. We sat here quietly on this side and listened to the other side. I sat here very quietly—

Opposition senators interjecting—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator «McGrath» , just resume your seat for a moment. I do not think anyone can claim that this motion to take note of answers given today has been without interjections from both sides. I have called the Senate to order on a number of occasions, and I would ask the Senate to remain in order for the remainder of Senator «McGrath's» contribution.

Senator McGRATH: I should put on record that I did interject. I certainly smiled and laughed at some of the interjections, so I am guilty, as charged, of that. It is very important to look at the consistency in some of the responses that have been given by the different leaders. Labor last night again refused to rule out what it has called on the government to rule out. On The7.30 Report last night, it was reported that the ABC had asked Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition, if he could rule out the possibility that payments had been made to people smugglers by the former government during the Rudd-Gillard years. A Labor spokesperson said:

It's unlawful … to divulge security or intelligence information.

The Abbott coalition government has implemented, lawfully, a suite of proven policies that have stopped the boats. We have done what governments before us have done but applied the measures with vigour and resolve. We have broken the people smugglers' business model. This is what it comes down to. The person who is quoted in today's paper and who appeared on Sky News today is a people smuggler. It is someone who makes their money out of the misery of other human beings. I do not think we should be taking their word in terms of telling the truth.

It is also significant that the deputy opposition leader yesterday refused to commit her party to maintaining the tough border policies that ended the years of dysfunction and failure of the Rudd-Gillard governments. The question that probably should be put is: where does Labor and Mr Shorten stand on turn-backs? Our record stands for itself. The most decent—the most moral—thing you can do is stop the boats and stop the deaths at sea. Even on Sky TV this morning, the member for Fraser, Andrew Leigh, when asked if the Labor Party paid people smugglers, said that it would be inappropriate for him to comment on operational matters. The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Shorten, also refused to comment on the same question when asked in a press conference earlier today.

This government will not detail operational activities under Operation Sovereign Borders. What matters is that, under our policy, the boats are stopping. Illegal maritime migration is being stemmed and so are the deaths at sea. My colleague Senator Back from Western Australia made mention of the 1,200 people—the known 1,200 people—who perished at sea under the former Labor-Green government. Those were 1,200 people who we could have saved if our policies had been in operation. In 2008, we had seven boats; in 2013, 302 boats arrived. Since we were elected, in 2014 and 2015, only one boat has arrived. We have put up borders of steel; whereas the Labor Party, sadly, through their failed policies, had, effectively, borders of lace. They put together a border of their nannas' doilies to create a border to stop people smugglers—and it did not work. (Time expired)