We stop the circus to stop the boats
The Daily Telegraph
October 29, 2013 12:00AM
IN just over five weeks of Operation Sovereign Borders, fewer than 600 people have turned up on 10 boats. Under the previous government this would occur in just five days. There has been a difference from day one. The current rate of arrivals represents an immediate 70 per cent decline, but we are not claiming anything at this stage and there is still a long way to go.
We will continue to apply maximum pressure to confront the inevitable surge from people smugglers in the weeks ahead, especially leading into the monsoon season.
Stopping the boats is a battle, and no one measure is enough to defeat the criminal people smugglers who have had the upper hand for the past five years.
This battle is being fought using the full arsenal of measures as part of a whole-of-government operation, led by Lieutenant General Angus Campbell. This new approach has had its critics. Chief among their concerns is not the results, but our language and how information is released to the media.
The position we have taken on removing operationally sensitive information from public dissemination was flagged before the election and is a function of running a military-led border security operation. It is not business as usual, and that is the point.
Such a policy is not uncommon for these types of operations, as our military commander has pointed out. When we first announced Operation Sovereign Borders, many critics scoffed at our decision to cast operations in this military-led context, but clearly failed to appreciate the implications of such an approach.
We are simply following through with what we promised we would do.
We are not going to reveal the posture of our border protection assets at sea, by revealing the time, place and intercepting vessel as the previous government did. Nor are we going to run a shipping news service for smugglers to use government information as proof of voyages for payment or to provide intelligence reports on client nationalities.
Within the detention network we are not going to publicise individual self-harm incidents. Such publicity only provides an incentive for this behaviour. Nor are we going to provide open access to centres for media as not only does this raise false hopes among detainees who believe media coverage of their plight will change the outcome of their case, but also can encourage non-compliant behaviour within the centres that can make a difficult job even harder for those who work there.
Access to centres for relevant independent agencies will continue as it did under the previous government to ensure transparency of operations.
We are also not going to give credibility to unsubstantiated claims constantly put up by advocacy groups through the media to undermine the government's tough policy position.
If serious and substantiated allegations are raised then we will deal with them.
The suggestion we are not fronting the media is also false. The schedule of regular press conferences is more frequent than anything conducted by any of my Labor predecessors in the role. Every illegal boat arrival has been and will be reported and specific events have been addressed both at the weekly media conferences and separate statements where they have been warranted.
Finally, our language calls it as we see it. We are not going to soften our language to condone illegal entry to Australia by boat. We want to stop this practice not socialise it. We do not share the angst of the previous government on this issue that led to their endless double-mindedness and policy paralysis that underpinned the people smuggling trade.
The amount of media interviews by Labor immigration ministers did not make up for their unprecedented border protection failures. As a consequence my focus is on the people being smuggled, their smugglers, our mission and the partners we are working with to achieve our goal.
That is where my focus will remain until the boats are stopped.
Scott Morrison is the federal Immigration Minister
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