A Government with Borders


By Adeline Teoh

The Coalition swept into power with a clear victory on 7 September 2013, pushing aside Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s recent comeback and the hung Parliament he and his predecessor, Julia Gillard, had – sometimes uncertainly – steered for the past three years. Will the new Government provide better security for Australia?

If you had listened to the election campaigning in soundbites you may well have believed that the polls hinged on one thing, ‘stop the boats’. Yet Operation Sovereign Borders, the Coalition’s star policy, experienced a disastrous debut with the second-time Liberal candidate for the western Sydney electorate of Greenway, Jaymes Diaz, unable to name the Coalition’s six-point plan in an interview with Channel Ten reporter, John Hill. The YouTube recording of the train wreck interview went viral and Diaz became very hard for the media to pin down for the rest of the election campaign.

The Coalition did have a fully formed border protection policy, however, as well as a pledge to increase funding to the Department of Defence, which put them ahead of Labor in this regard. “Defence is just not a priority for Labor, they demonstrated this as they systemically cut $30 billion from the Defence budget since the 2009 White Paper, leaving us with a level of funding, as a percentage of GDP, not seen since 1938,” says Senator David Johnston, Minister for Defence.

Its law enforcement policy has also pledged money for federal security initiatives including $100 million for Customs and $50 million for nation-wide CCTV systems, and a better working relationship with the State and Territory Governments that traditionally look after crime prevention and law enforcement. Attorney-General, George Brandis QC, has also promised a Coalition Government will bring balance and stability to the role after the chop and change of the last three years. Labor fielded three Attorneys-General – Robert

McClelland, Nicola Roxon and Mark Dreyfus – since forming Government in 2010. “Having the same person with the same agenda in that job for a significant length of time would itself be a good thing,” Brandis says.

If you’re wondering what’s in store for Australian security in the next three years, start with the foundation of the Coalition’s policies.

Launching Operation Sovereign Borders

Border protection is a complex concept, particularly when it comes to the legality of seeking asylum. There’s no doubt that both major parties ran scare campaigns on the refugee issue, using suggestive language that conjured up the distasteful image of illegal immigration and queue-jumping in the minds of the general public. The fact is, seeking asylum is not illegal and arriving by boat is also not illegal, which is why the Coalition’s claim – ‘there is a national emergency on our borders’ – is best described as alarmist.

Operation Sovereign Borders is the Coalition’s policy to establish a military-led response to combat people smuggling and to protect our borders. People-smuggling is illegal, and has rightly been put at the centre of the policy, though the trickle of boats carrying asylum seekers, most of whom turn out to be genuine refugees, has hardly been a pressing reason to call it a national emergency. Read More