Onus is on Shorten over boats

La­bor is weak­en­ing two of three prongs on bor­der se­cu­rity

The Australian - - COMMENTARY -

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.

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