Wednesday, 13 May 2015
Migration Amendment (Maintaining the Good Order of Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2015; Second Reading
I am very pleased to speak today on the Migration Amendment (Maintaining the Good Order of Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2015. This could be called another 'cleaning up the Labor mess' bill, because what we are doing is tidying up something that the Labor Party in office left in a shambolic state. Remember that 800 boats and 50,000 people arrived under their watch. Just to remind the House, when the Labor Party took over in 2007, there were four people in detention as a result of coming by boat. By the time Labor had left, there were tens of thousands of people. They are still being dealt with in the Australian community because Labor put them there and tried to forget about them.
I recall that before Kevin Rudd won the election in 2007 we were criticised for upgrading the Christmas Island detention facility. The Labor Party said, 'It won't be needed. It won't even get full.' They ended up with thousands of people there. What did they then have to do? They had to go and build detention centres all over Australia to deal with them. Let's try to remember a few of them. They opened up Curtin. They opened up Scherger. They opened up Inverbrackie. They even tried one down in Tasmania. In Perth, besides the one at the airport, they opened up one called Yongah Hill in Northam. They were putting people out in Leonora and Laverton. They were dropping them all over the country like confetti to house the massive numbers of people coming unlawfully to Australia by boat. Is there any wonder that their system got out of control?
What we are doing today and what this bill is doing today is tidying up Labor's mess. We are going to make sure that the workers in those facilities get some protection. The Labor Party used to be a party for the workers. Now they are a party that just uses the workers and does not care about their safety. Listening to the member opposite a moment ago—and I am sure, looking at the speakers list, that the rest of them will be the same—you can tell that they are more interested in the welfare of those who are detained than the welfare of the workers at the facilities. They are worrying about whether the law gives them enough protection and ability to report and that sort of thing. I will get onto Villawood shortly so that we can talk about the sort of people who have been housed in these facilities and what they did to those facilities. The coalition on this side of the parliament is interested in looking after the workers who maintain law and order and the care of people in detention facilities.
We now have a situation where our onshore immigration detention facilities have a number of high-risk people coming into their care. Which was the first party to start a detention centre? It was the Labor Party under Gerry Hand. Gerry Hand, the immigration minister at the time, initiated the first detention facility in Australia at Port Hedland, which I have visited. We are meant to have a bipartisan approach on the detention of those who arrive unlawfully in this country. We saw that enhanced and increased at the last election to the extent that, when Kevin Rudd came back as Prime Minister, we ended up with our overseas Pacific solution being copied again in Nauru and Manus Island. So let's not be too shy about who has the moral high ground here. This is the policy that those opposite rejected and then reinstated because it works. By the way, we are now seeing a massive number of questions from those in Europe at the moment asking us, 'How did you stop the boats when we are seeing all these people arriving at Lampedusa in the Italian territory from Tunisia and Libya and drowning at sea?' They do not want to go through the same thing that the Labor Party did when they were in charge of this country with people drowning at sea.
Getting back to the detention facilities, there is a high number of high-risk people who are being housed in those. For the people who were coming through unlawfully by boat during the Labor Party's watch, it was pretty obvious. You could see that some of them had old bullet wounds. They did not look very deprived to me. They were wearing Rolex watches, gold chains and designer glasses. These people were not humanitarian entrants under the real definition of the term. If you recall, the character test was not even being instituted. We had a number of people on a boat off Darwin who lit the boat up. Our sailors had to go on board and try to rescue the people. Five of them were inquired into and found to have been behind setting the boat alight and yet they still got visas under the Labor Party's watch. What sort of character test was that?
So here we are looking after the workers in these detention centres and putting some rules around them, because at the moment it is just a very grey area.
It was a very chaotic approach—unparalleled in this country—in terms of the men and women and Customs and Border Protection officials that work in our onshore detention facilities. But you do not have to take my word for it; you only have to look at the Hawke-Williams report. For the benefit of the House, the Hawke-Williams report is the Independent review of the incidents at the Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre and Villawood Immigration Detention Centre. It was commissioned by Labor and conducted by Dr Allan Hawke AC and Ms Helen Williams AO in 2011. So their own report is what I am quoting from. It is a damning chronicle of policy and administrative failures on the part of members opposite—who I am sure will sit there today shunning responsibility—which has become the Labor norm in this House when it comes to these immigration issues. We have cleaned it up, as you know. How long is it since we have had anyone arrive by boat? Since the last election, I think there has been about one boat—two if we try and stretch our imagination.
The Hawke-Williams report makes it clear that overcrowding, poor security and surges in asylum-seeker arrivals overwhelmed the detention centre network, and they were the main drivers behind the riots at Christmas Island and Villawood detention centres. Specifically, the report found that the constant expansion of the Christmas Island detention facility resulted in a corresponding decline in security. In other words, it was overcrowded. So much for not using it! It was filled to the brim and overflowing. No wonder they were trying to get over the fence! Consequently, asylum seekers breached its perimeter and sparked days of rioting during which staff were assaulted. The detainees stole cars, torched buildings, smashed CCTV cameras and used cement blocks, mop handles and aerosol cans as weapons against those looking after them in these detention centres, trying to keep them inside the razor wire. I will correct that: it was not even razor wire. That was what those over there used to say. It was actually just a perimeter fence which was being guarded.