House debates

Wednesday, 13 September 2017


Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2017; Second Reading

Photo of Peter DuttonPeter Dutton (Dickson, Liberal Party, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection) Share this | | Hansard source

) ( ): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

In 2013, 99 per cent of people in immigration detention were illegal maritime arrivals. Our immigration detention facilities were flooded by the 50,000 people who arrived on 800 boats under Labor.

Since coming to government, the coalition has been able to get people out of detention, including the 8,000 children placed in detention by Labor, and we have been able to close 17 detention centres.

At the same time we have strengthened section 501 of the Migration Act to better protect the Australian community from foreign nationals who commit serious crimes. These changes have allowed us to cancel the visas of more than 2,800 foreign nationals who thought they could flout our laws and commit crimes against Australians.

Since these changes were enacted, we have cancelled the visas of 54 murderers, 223 child sex offenders and 150 organised crime figures. This action has resulted in a significant increase in criminals in our immigration detention facilities.

Immigration detention is necessary for strong border control. Foreign nationals who present an unacceptable risk to the Australian community will have their visas cancelled and they will be detained while their status is resolved, or they are removed from the country.

Today, around 50 per cent of the detention population are non-citizens who have had their visas cancelled. And while IMAs now only make up around 25 per cent—as opposed to 99 per cent under Labor—of the detention population, this cohort is complex and includes people with criminal histories or other security concerns which present a risk to the Australian community.

This means that more than half of the detainee population consists of high-risk cohorts. These cohorts have significant criminal histories, like child sex offences or links to criminal gangs, such as outlaw motorcycle gangs and other organised crime groups, or represent an unacceptable risk to the Australian community otherwise.

These criminals often have serious behavioural issues and pose a critical threat to the health, safety, security and order of the detention network.

I have said this on repeated occasions, and I will repeat it again today: this government and I will not tolerate behaviour that is illegal, or that threatens the stability of detention facilities, placing my officers, visitors or detainees at risk.

At the moment, the existing arrangements are inadequate to manage the increasing risk of contraband in detention, such as narcotic drugs and the use of mobile phones for the commission of criminal activity.

Mobile phones in detention are enabling criminal behaviour. Examples of their use include:

              The Australian Border Force Commissioner advised in budget estimates that one detainee arranged a contract killing on another detainee while in immigration detention. Thankfully, my officers prevented this heinous crime from occurring but I will not stand by and allow this behaviour to continue.

              We have also seen the use of mobile phones to coordinate internal disturbances and escapes. Two coordinated disturbances, one on Christmas Island and one at Yongah Hill, resulted in riots. This synchronised effort of disruption is threatening the order of the detention facilities and is placing all those who work and reside there at risk.

              The Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2017 enables the department to provide a safe and secure environment for people accommodated at, visiting or working at an immigration detention facility.

              The bill will strengthen search-and-seizure powers, including the use of detector dogs, in order for authorised officers to restrict things from immigration detention facilities that might pose a risk. These things include mobile phones, SIM cards, narcotic drugs and child pornography.

              Specifically, the bill amends the act to insert new definitions under subsection 5(1) to define detention centres and alternative places of detention collectively as 'immigration detention facilities', and to define a 'prohibited thing'.

              A new section, 251A, will be inserted to enable the minister to determine by legislative instrument things to be prohibited in relation to persons in detention and immigration detention facilities.

              These things will include illegal things, specifically narcotic drugs, and child pornography, and things that might be a risk within immigration detention facilities such as mobile phones and SIM cards. The government is also proposing amendments to the search-and-seizure provisions in the act, specifically sections 252, 252AA, 252A, 252B, 252BA, 252BB, 252C, 252CA and 252G, in order to ensure that we are able to effectively deal with such items.

              In addition, the government is proposing to add the ability to use a detector dog to screen for some of these items under sections 252AA, 252BA and 252G of the act.

              Even with the removal of mobile phones from detention facilities, detainees will continue to have reasonable access to communication avenues. This includes landline phones, internet access and visitors, in order to maintain contact with their support networks. Migration agents, or legal representatives, will also continue to be able to contact their clients.

              This bill will ensure our officers can carry out their responsibilities properly, minimising unacceptable risks to the health, safety and security of persons in immigration detention facilities and to the order of these facilities. I commend the bill to the House.

              Debate adjourned.