Questions Without Notice: Take Note Of Answers - 15 June 2015


Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (15:06): I want to respond to all three areas that the Labor Party have raised in their questioning of ministers today. Senator Collins touched on two of them. If this is the best the Labor Party have got, they are in serious trouble. Let us look at each of them. Senator Collins has come here on this issue around the letter and the best attack that she could make was that it took three days to get to the bottom of the matter. That seems to be at the heart of the criticism from Senator Collins. I say to Senator Collins and to other senators opposite that, when it comes to national security, our record is one we are very proud of. It is an issue we treat with the utmost seriousness.

 

From time to time, as those opposite would know because they experienced it in government, incorrect information is provided, inadvertently, by officials. In this case, that was acknowledged and there was an effort to get to the bottom of it and ensure that the correct answer was given. So Senator Collins's great attack appears to be that it took a few days to ensure we got the accurate information and got it to the parliament. That is not a legitimate criticism; it is not a decent criticism. I think Senator Collins suggested that Senator Brandis was trying to blame his secretary. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in getting to the bottom of it and coming back promptly, I think Minister Brandis would be very satisfied with the actions of his secretary. We could compare all sorts of instances under the previous government in terms of coming back and correcting the record, in some cases, on multiple occasions. And we would compare very favourably. But I come back to the central point and that is that we take our national security responsibilities very seriously.

What we have seen from those opposite on this issue is simply an attempt to play petty politics and petty point-scoring politics on what is a very serious issue. We will continue to work diligently, to ensure that the terrorist threat that this nation faces is dealt with in a strong and effective way. I believe that is what we are doing at the moment, but of course we need to be ever vigilant on these issues.

Other issues raised were around people smugglers and, of course, we had the reference to Professor Triggs. Those two of course are related, because one of the reasons that there have been criticisms of Professor Triggs by this government is that we saw the decision to launch an inquiry into the issue around children in detention at a time when this government had massively reduced the number of children in immigration detention. Professor Triggs was at an event today where I heard her reference 126 children now in detention. I do not know whether that is the exact up-to-date number but it was the number that Professor Triggs quoted today. That compares to around 2,000 at the height of the Labor Party's failed border protection policies. I note that there have been some protests in recent times—I note that this is Refugee Week—and I hope that at those protests there will be an acknowledgment, as they protest immigration detention policies and as they protest children in detention, that under this government we have seen a massive and substantial reduction in the number of children in detention with a view to there being none, as there was at the end of the Howard government.

So it is important that we put facts on the table when it comes to these matters and that we compare our record with the record of those opposite, who are asking the questions. When it comes to Professor Triggs's intervention, which senators opposite asked about, one reason that those on the government side do not have confidence in Professor Triggs is that she did not take it seriously enough to investigate children in detention, when in fact there were up to 2,000 under the former Labor government, but saw fit to investigate at a time when the coalition were dramatically reducing that number and dealing with the serious issues we had inherited.

 

In fact, we were stopping the boats, something that those opposite said we could not do. Those opposite said that we could not stop the boats. We have and there have been significant benefits as a result. One of those benefits is that we have seen a significant reduction in the number of children in detention. (Time expired)