House debates

Tuesday, 17 October 2023

Questions without Notice


2:31 pm

Photo of Tania LawrenceTania Lawrence (Hasluck, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Home Affairs. What have recent reports found about the visa system over the last decade, and what is the Albanese Labor government doing to address these findings and clean up the mess?

Photo of Clare O'NeilClare O'Neil (Hotham, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Home Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Hasluck for her question and for her brilliant advocacy of her local community. Yesterday I updated the House on the rapid review into the exploitation of Australia's visa system, which was led by former Victoria Police commissioner Christine Nixon. What Ms Nixon uncovered about our immigration system was absolutely shocking. She found that systemic, abhorrent networks of sexual exploitation, human trafficking and other organised crime were being facilitated by breakdowns in our migration system. In fact, Ms Nixon's report says that things got so bad that organised crime gangs around the world were actually looking to come to Australia and set up a practice because our immigration system made it easy for those gangs to abuse innocent people and traffic people into our country.

That is why the actions of the Australian government in response to this have been so broad and sweeping and significant. We have reorganised part of the Department of Home Affairs to make sure that we are better managing this system. We've dedicated $50 million to establish this new division, which will bring together different parts of government that can help us properly run the migration system. We've set up a permanent strike force that will rove around different parts of the immigration system and address the integrity problems we see. We've also established Operation Inglenook, something which brings together Australian Border Force and other parts of government to fight abuses in the system. As part of our response to the Nixon review, we have embedded that in the department and made it permanent.

As a result of all these efforts, quite significant action has been taken in the specifics of what Ms Nixon found. There have been deportations as a result of her work, and we've turned a number of people around at the border. Migration agents have been deregistered, and there have been other associated activities. I want to quickly provide the House with a case study which I think really well establishes how these problems in our migration system have worked together to establish this environment that Christine Nixon talked about. We had an individual who arrived in Australia on a student visa in 2014. He was found later to have not studied at all in Australia. Instead he set up a sprawling underground sex worker racket, which abused vulnerable people.

What's outrageous is that this person actually committed similar crimes in the UK. The Australian government found out about that and did not do anything about it. One of the things that I find very upsetting about this, and I think Australians are angry about what they see here—they understand that there are risks involved in running a system like this. What they do not like is hypocrisy. What we saw was the opposition leader parade around the country saying that he was a tough guy on borders while organised criminals were coming in under his nose and exploiting people and abusing them. He is a fraud, he is a hypocrite and he should apologise to Australians for the mess that he created on our borders.