House debates

Monday, 3 June 2013


National Security

3:07 pm

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That so much of standing and sessional orders be suspended as to allow the member for Cook to move the following motion:

That given the Government’s refusal to answer questions in this House and their refusal to establish an independent inquiry into the Government’s ‘light touch’ handling of national security issues regarding the detention and processing of a convicted terrorist who arrived illegally by boat in and around May 2012 that:

(1) a Select Committee on the ‘National security issues relating to the processing and detention of a convicted terrorist who arrived by boat in and around May 2012 and other related matters involving the Government’s handling of national security issues for irregular maritime arrivals’ be appointed to inquire into and report on, having regard to the following circumstances,:

(a) in or around May 2012, an Egyptian adult male accompanied by his family arrived illegally by boat at Christmas Island claiming asylum. After initial processing the man and family were transferred to the Inverbrackie Alternative Place of Detention, a detention facility for low risk asylum seeker families in the Adelaide Hills;

(b) by end August 2012 it was established by ASIO that this man was convicted of multiple terrorist offences, a member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad which merged with Al Qaeda in June 2001. He was the subject of an Interpol Red Notice; and

(c) the man and family remained in low security detention at Inverbrackie until April 2013 when they were transferred to higher security detention facilities at Villawood in Sydney;

(2) the Select Committee should:

(a) establish the facts surrounding the case in relation to:

  (i) the full chronology of the events relating to the man and his family’s arrival and detention in Australia and associated security and criminal investigations;

  (ii) how and when relevant agencies and Ministers became aware of the man’s terrorist conviction and what action was taken in response to that knowledge;

  (iii) the adequacy of interagency co-operation, and in particular co-operation between DIAC, ASIO and the AFP, in identifying, sharing information, and taking steps to appropriately deal with the individual concerned;

  (iv) why the individual was left so long at the Inverbrackie low security facility before being transferred to Villawood;

  (v) the current location and security arrangements for the man and family;

  (vi) the current status of immigration processing of his asylum or any other claim; and

  (vii) action being taken in relation to his extradition to Egypt and the point of responsibility for ongoing management of this national security case;

(b) review the facts and make an assessment of any failings in the Government’s handling of this case and who will be responsible;

(c) identify and establish the facts relating to the Government’s handling of other cases, involving national security issues including, but not restricted to:

  (i) a Sri Lankan national suspected of murder who was released into the community before being taken to Villawood detention centre;

  (ii) a suspected Iranian drug smuggler who arrived via boat and is now in a mental health facility;

  (iii) asylum seeker claims involving membership of the group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam; and

  (iv) any other asylum seeker claim that has received a negative ASIO security assessment; and

(d) make recommendations to address issues identified in the review;

(3) the committee consist of seven members, three members to be nominated by the Government Whip or Whips, three members to be nominated by the Opposition Whip or Whips, and one non-aligned member;

(4) the committee may supplement its membership by up to four members, with a maximum of two extra government and two extra opposition or non-aligned members. Supplementary members shall have the same participatory rights as other members, but may not vote;

(5) every nomination of a member of the committee be notified in writing to the Speaker of the House of Representatives;

(6) the members of the committee hold office as a select committee until presentation of the committee's report or the House of Representatives is dissolved or expires by effluxion of time, whichever is the earlier;

(7) the committee elect a government or a non-government member as chair at its first meeting;

(8) the committee elect a member as its deputy chair who shall act as chair of the committee at any time when the chair is not present at a meeting of the committee, and at any time when the chair and deputy chair are not present at a meeting of the committee the members present shall elect another member to act as chair at that meeting;

(9) in the event of an equally divided vote, the chair, or the deputy chair when acting as chair, have a casting vote;

(10) three members of the committee constitute a quorum of the committee provided that in a deliberative meeting the quorum shall include one government member and one non-government member;

(11) the committee have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of three or more of its members and to refer to any sub-committee any matter which the committee is empowered to examine;

(12) the committee appoint the chair of each sub-committee who shall have a casting vote only and at any time when the chair of a sub-committee is not present at a meeting of the sub-committee the members of the sub-committee present shall elect another member of that sub-committee to act as chair at that meeting;

(13) two members of a sub-committee constitute the quorum of that sub-committee;

(14) members of the committee who are not members of a sub-committee may participate in the proceedings of that sub-committee but shall not vote, move any motion or be counted for the purpose of a quorum;

(15) the committee or any sub-committee have power to call for witnesses to attend and for documents to be produced;

(16) the committee or any sub-committee may conduct proceedings at any place it sees fit;

(17) the committee or any sub-committee have power to adjourn from time to time and to sit during any adjournment of the House of Representative;

(18) the committee may report from time to time but that it present its final report no later than 30 June 2013; and

(19) the provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the standing orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the standing orders.

This government has a light touch on our borders and it has a light touch on national security. This inquiry is required, and it is important that standing orders be suspended, because this is an urgent matter. This House sits for just three more weeks before the break. This minister has refused to conduct an independent inquiry when given the opportunity to do so. It seems this minister has not one word of concern, let alone action, in relation to these incredibly serious matters that have enabled a convicted terrorist to sit in a low-grade facility in the Adelaide Hills for a period of seven months without being moved. It was only when the West Australian published details of this that he got out from under his desk, decided to make a decision and put this person in the place he should have always been, which was a high-security facility.

This is a government whose light touch on our borders has resulted in over 700 boats turning up over the course of its tenure—more than 550 under this Prime Minister herself—and more than 200 people turning up on a boat within the last 48 hours alone. There have been 35,000 arrivals since the last election and cost blow-outs of more than $10 billion.

It is a true fact that we spend more today on the department of immigration than we spend separately, net, on the capability of our Navy and our Air Force. We spend more on immigration, dealing with the blow-outs in costs, than we spend on the capability of our Navy and ourAir Force. The time line on these things is an absolute disgrace, because it shows a government that has completely sat on its hands while a convicted terrorist came into the country and was known to be here. ASIO and the AFP advised the department of immigration of the serious nature of this individual and the government thought that this individual should stay in a low security facility under the government's watch—a process that the Prime Minister herself said she was satisfied with, which was a light-touch approach.

That is the standard and that is where the bar has been set for national security issues by this government. That is why an independent inquiry is needed and why standing orders need to be suspended, because this is not the first time. We all remember that Captain Emad could come into this country by boat as a people smuggler and fly out of this country as a people smuggler because, under this government, everybody was pointing fingers in the opposite direction. Nobody knew what each other was doing, nobody was paying attention to what was happening on our borders and, as a result, Captain Emad remains at large and his family remain in public housing here in the ACT, much to the disenchantment of the entire Australian population because that story in itself speaks volumes of the light touch approach that this Prime Minister sanctions, that this minister operates and the ministers before him also operated on our borders. We need an inquiry, because this government does not learn from its mistakes. We see repeatedly in this place, whether it is pink batts or anything else, that this government just never learns from its mistakes.

So we gave the government the opportunity last Friday for this minister to step up and actually do his job and find out what went wrong to enable this situation to proceed for seven months. He said no. I suspect the government do not want to know the answer. They do not want to know how many more risks are out there. They do not want to know how wide the cracks are in the system the government have built over the last six years that have allowed the Captain Emads and an Egyptian jihadist terrorist to come into the country on boats and go into low grade facilities next to a Defence Force facility in South Australia, in the Adelaide Hills, in the electorate of Mayo. The member for Mayo has stood up in this place and in other places and was told by the then Minister for Immigration and Citizenship that only people on low security risk would be in there.

A convicted Egyptian terrorist, with an Interpol red notice, does not qualify as low security. But this government thinks it does. This government thinks it is appropriate, that that is where that sort of a person should be and it is so endemic of the way these national security matters are handled by this government. They are a light touch on our borders and they are a light touch on national security and this minister is a light touch. (Time expired)


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