Onus is on Shorten over boats
Labor is weakening two of three prongs on border security
Bill Shorten must comprehend that when it comes to border protection the onus is on him to demonstrate his credentials. Labor’s record in this crucial policy area is appalling and it is embarrassingly futile for him to insist his pledge to keep our borders secure ought to be sufficient. Such a demand flies in the face of lived experience; Kevin Rudd made similar assurances, only to deliver the opposite outcome. The Opposition Leader’s indignation also seeks to paper over the significant differences between the successful border security regime currently in place and Labor’s policy.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is within his rights to emphasise the risks, especially yesterday when news broke about disruption of a smuggling venture that would have seen a boat depart Malaysia with 34 people bound for Australia or New Zealand. The Coalition’s Operation Sovereign Borders has rested on three prongs: maritime operations including boat turnbacks, temporary protection visas and offshore processing. Mr Shorten cannot escape the fact his plan involves eliminating TPVs and weakening offshore processing by allowing asylum-seekers on to the mainland on the recommendation of two doctors. That leaves only maritime enforcement — and boat turnbacks have been a running sore for the ALP. On the eve of the 2007 election, Mr Rudd pledged to “turn them back” but in power he dismantled the Pacific Solution, helping to restart the people-smuggling trade. He failed to turn back a single boat and, despite more than 800 boats and 50,000 asylum-seekers arriving under Labor, with at least 1200 deaths at sea, Mr Rudd still resisted boat turnbacks, claiming they would spark conflict with Indonesia. Last month Mr Shorten won party support to officially endorse boat turnbacks by the narrowest of margins and only by promising an additional $500 million for the UNHCR as well as another increase in our humanitarian intake. It is asking a great deal of voters that they should believe Labor will have the resolve to turn boats back when so many leading ALP figures have always opposed this measure as inhumane, inflammatory or even impossible.