Sunday, April 14, 2024

Peter Dutton, Anthony Albanese clash on cost to patrol borders

“Border Force funding is currently the highest it’s been since its establishment in 2015 and in the last year the ABF has received additional funding totally hundreds of millions of dollars to support maritime and land-based operations,” he said.

The latest arrivals, discovered in two groups on Friday and Saturday but understood to come from one boat, were flown to Nauru on Sunday and are now being held at the offshore detention facility on the island, joining a group of 12 who arrived last November.

Dutton claimed the latest developments, combined with the release of 149 detainees into the community after a High Court ruling last year against indefinite detention, meant that the government was too weak to protect the borders.

“They’re now sending a green light to people smugglers when the news is distributed by the people smugglers that 149 criminals, who are non-citizens and have committed terrible crimes, can be released from immigration detention into the community for a permanent outcome in our country,” he said.

“How can the prime minister look the Australian public in the eye and tell him something that he knows is not true?

“I think the government absolutely has got all sorts of problems at the moment, because it’s clear that they don’t have the same surveillance in place that we had when we were in government.

“It’s inconceivable that a boat of this size carrying 40-plus people could make it to the mainland without there being any detection.”

Dutton said there were not enough Dash-8 aircraft – the De Havilland Canada DHC-8 used by Australian Border Force to patrol the West Australian coast – and that this was due to a funding cut.

Earlier, Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham told ABC radio that Senate estimates hearings uncovered evidence of a $600 million cut to border protection.

Federal budget figures show that the previous government planned to spend $1.34 billion this financial year, according to financial statements from before the last election, but this has been increased to $1.59 billion under Labor as a result of changes in the latest federal budget.

A Cobham Dash 8 aircraft, pictured above a Border Force ship, conducts aerial surveillance.

A Cobham Dash 8 aircraft, pictured above a Border Force ship, conducts aerial surveillance.Credit:

The government also pointed to forecasts showing that it would spend more than the previous government planned over the four years to the end of June 2026. This spending is forecast to reach $6 billion over those four years, compared to $5.5 billion under the previous forecasts.

The difference amounts to $470 million.

Albanese said Dutton was undermining border security by claiming Operation Sovereign Borders had been weakened.

“What the government is saying is Operation Sovereign Borders is in place and no one who’s an unauthorised arrival will be allowed to settle here,” he said.

Albanese said people smugglers would exploit the opposition leader’s claims because his words would become a “marketing” opportunity.

“Peter Dutton needs to stop acting in such an irresponsible, opportunistic way in trying to seize some short-term political advantage in a way that just does not promote Australia’s national interest,” Albanese said.

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“For all of his rhetoric over the weekend, yesterday, every single one of these people was disembarked in Nauru in accordance with the government’s policy, in quite a great deal of contradiction from what Mr Dutton was saying yesterday, and on Saturday.

“If people smugglers want to take those grabs from Mr Dutton and show them to people, that’s called a marketing tool.

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