House debates

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Questions without Notice

National Security

2:29 pm

Photo of Andrew HastieAndrew Hastie (Canning, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Attorney-General. Will the Attorney-General explain to the House how poorly drafted legislation can impact the administration and operation of Australia's border security?

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for his question. The requirement to return a person to a regional processing country and the power to achieve that return are both contained in a very specific section of the Migration Act: 198AD.

That is a very important section, because if someone doesn't volunteer to return to the offshore processing facility it is sometimes necessary to remove them and place them on a flight, and rarely, thankfully, to restrain them—although sometimes that does happen. To do these things, a member of Border Force has to be able to point to a specific statutory power. If they don't have a statutory power, then doing things like removing someone and putting them on a plane is effectively an unlawful act against that transferee.

Now, that very important return power in 198AD of the act only applies to the specific categories of transitory persons who are set out in another provision of the act, which is 198AH. The problem is, that section does not include a person transferred under Labor's new medevac transfer. It does not include that person. So what Labor has done is add in an entirely new medevac transfer process to the Migration Act but they've failed to link that entirely new medevac transfer process to the existing provisions that provide the minister with the power to return.

Photo of Shayne NeumannShayne Neumann (Blair, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Immigration and Border Protection) Share this | | Hansard source

You'll never run it in court! You'll never run the argument!

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

It seems like the member for Blair, who is interjecting at the moment, ably advised by the shadow Attorney-General, has forgotten to apply the return system. But from what he said this morning, again, we can all feel comforted, because he said: 'It's no issue. The laws have not changed the return system.'

It is true that the laws haven't changed the return system. The problem is that the laws don't apply the return system to the new laws. That is the problem. What we have had here—

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

That's the genius.

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

We've had the genius of the member for Blair, and this is what he said this morning, 'If a person is transferred to Australia for temporary medical treatment we will return them once doctors advise they have completed medical treatment.' The problem is you actually need a section of the act to authorise the return.

Mr Neumann interjecting

If I and the government are wrong about this—and I'll take this interjection—what is the section of the act, member for Blair, that authorises the return? I'm just listening for a number! Can anyone hear the number? It's a thousand pages of legislation! You could just pick a number if you wanted to! What was the member for Blair's plan? Was he going to go up to Christmas Island and personally ask people, nicely, to go home? Was he going to utilise the mystic powers of the ring of steel? Was that the plan?

If you do not have a statutory power, the people who you are saying that you are treating humanely will be detained indefinitely on Christmas Island. He is a shemozzle member, a shemozzle! (Time expired)