House debates

Wednesday, 13 May 2015


Migration Amendment (Maintaining the Good Order of Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2015; Second Reading

9:39 am

Photo of Don RandallDon Randall (Canning, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

Well, when you get up, tell us where you have been. I have visited a whole lot of them, including those overseas as well. So I know what I am talking about.

The violence in this circumstance became so serious that some of the facility staff had to be rescued by the Australian Federal Police, who were ultimately forced to take control of the situation in the detention centres, because the security was so inadequate inside because staff were not sure what they were entitled to do to maintain law and order.

One month later, asylum seekers took to the rooftops of Villawood in Sydney and triggered riots during which facilities were burnt to the ground and firefighters were pelted with tiles. The firefighters were going in to try and put out the fires. Those lovely people that were coming here for a better life because they were so deprived in the countries that they came from overseas decided to burn down their accommodation. They were standing up there with mobile phones. Mr Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition and all these people were on the other side of the fence egging them on and talking to them on their mobile phones. They were supposedly unable to come off the roof, but they were ducking down to the toilet and all this sort of stuff. It was an absolute farce. You had the spectre of people lighting up a wheelie bin full of flammable material and dragging it through building after building setting them on fire, and nobody could stop them.

No wonder the Australian people became appalled at the way we were conducting our detention centres and border security in general. No wonder the Labor Party were tossed out at the last election. This was one of the major reasons that the Australian public lost faith in the previous government. It was not just because of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd stuff; the public lost faith in them because they could not keep us safe and they could not secure our borders. They sit over there today and want to talk about those housed in there rather than those working in there. Well, there are a lot fewer people working there now, because there are not many of them there. We are actually closing them down gradually. Scherger has closed down. Curtin has closed down. Scott Morrison, the former immigration minister, spent a whole lot of time going around the country closing down facilities, and we have found out in this budget that we will be saving over $1 billion by doing so. We were willing to spend $1 billion on people who turned up unlawfully, but we did not get any help from the other side. We just had block after block in terms of trying to deal with this issue.

We also know that the Hawke-Williams report highlights that no-one knew who was responsible for the management during these riots. State police and emergency services were prevented from taking immediate action. Immigration detention service providers were unclear as to when staff may act to protect themselves and the detainees that they were looking after—because some of them got hurt in the fracas as well. And members opposite seemed to be more confused than anyone, because they had no answer for it.

In stark contrast we, as a coalition, were quite concerned. We were concerned that there was no agreement between the states and the Labor-led federal government about how to deal with detention centre riots, a sentiment that was echoed by the then Premier of New South Wales, Barry O'Farrell, because Villawood was on his watch. We were concerned when the then Minister for Immigration, the member for McMahon, had given no real indication to providers as to if and when they could act when confronted with situations like these. They just let it hang.

And most of all, we were concerned about the safety of the detainees, the staff and people in and around the detention centres—the people who had to live around the perimeter of these detention centres. Not all of them are remote. As we know, some people were very concerned.    I, for one, cannot help but wonder if situations like this, where innocent people were seriously assaulted and millions of dollars of taxpayer money were wasted, could have been mitigated by the member for McMahon and his succession of other migration ministers on the other side if they had in any way been competent in their jobs. Obviously, they were not.

We know that the Labor Party is totally divided on this. There are those who would shut down detention centres tomorrow, even though it is the bipartisan view that detention should happen for those arriving illegally. I also remind them that it was the Labor Party which put the first detention centre in this country—Gerry Hand, immigration minister from the left of the Labor Party. We are all on the same page on this side; over there, they are very divided.

We do not want to see another riot situation. There is a good chance that we will not, because there are fewer and fewer people. As we know, we are taking the children out of detention. When we took government there were 2,000 children in detention—I think there are fewer than 100 now. We are dealing with the situation in a competent way.

This bill will amend the Migration Act to put in strong border protection and establish a safe and effective system of immigration detention. We are doing this because we believe we have an overriding responsibility not only to the detainees but to other people in our immigration detention facilities to ensure that they are free from harm. Therefore we must provide those working in our detention facilities with the tools they need to protect the life, health or safety of any person, and to maintain the good order, peace and security of the facility.

Certainly, the amendments in this bill address these issues that I touched on earlier—the ones that, as I said, the Labor Party never decided to address. The Christmas Island and Villawood riots most definitely highlighted uncertainty on the part of immigration detention service providers as to when staff may act and be able to confront these sorts of disturbances. This sentiment again, as I said, is also echoed in the Hawke-Williams report. For the benefit of the House, the report recommended that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection clearly articulate the responsibility of public order management between the department, the provider, the Australian Federal Police and other emergency services who may attend immigration detention facilities.

This means providing a legislative framework for the use of reasonable force within immigration detention facilities in Australia—quite reasonable, one would think, and yet we are getting prevarication from the other side. They say, 'Oh, we're a bit concerned about this; we're not happy with that.' Well, what is the matter with putting in place formal and legal parameters about how the workers—that the Labor Party thought about once—might be protected and what their rights and responsibilities are? This side of the House is interested in the welfare of the workers and their health and safety on the job. The other side are a bit ambivalent. They are not quite sure what they are going to do with this bill. The previous speaker wanted some amendments et cetera. I recommend this bill to the House. (Time expired)


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