Dear Malcolm and Sharman, I have read that you are having some difficulty understanding how a small boat, in this case carrying refugees, could approach the Australian coastline so I thought I’d collect some information for you that may help you avoid asking silly questions in future.
The Australian coastline is roughly 25,760km long. That’s really big, which means that it takes a lot of people, planes and boats to watch all of it at once. Even it we only watch the northern coastline from Cairns to Broome, we are still talking about roughly 6,500km or 3,500 nautical miles.
The Royal Australian Navy has 14 Armidale Class patrol boats, which are the primary vessel used to intercept small boats, but of course due to maintenance and crew schedules they are not all active at once. There is usually one inactive in Cairns and one in Darwin.
Are you starting to see a picture forming Malcolm? Sharman? Big coastline, limited resources. Coastal radar only has a few hundred kilometres range, arial surveillance also has operational limits, we can’t simultaneously watch every part of our territorial waters at once.
And I realise it may be easy to forget this, living as we do in a prosperous, peaceful nation, but some people are being persecuted where they live because of their ethnicity or their political or religious beliefs. These people jump in leaky boats and try to escape to Australia, not because they hate us or want to destroy us, but because they believe that we are an egalitarian and just nation who will provide them with the opportunity to rebuild their lives.
Please try to remember these things before you start asking silly questions in front of TV cameras, it’ll make life much more pleasant for all of us.