Tuesday, 28 November 2023
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs. When was the minister first made aware that, after he released 141 hardcore criminals, one of those criminals absconded? Can the minister inform the House of the nature of this individual's crimes? Does the minister know where this individual is now?
I thank the shadow minister for his question. Of course, it was the High Court that required the release of the detainees, and this government, like all governments, is required to abide by the decisions of the High Court. In respect of the issue he raises, I should be very clear about a couple of things. The first one is that, as he would be well aware—as all members would be well aware—this government does not comment on operational or individual matters. Can I also say to members in this place and to the Australian community that the Australian community should be assured that all efforts, coordinated under Operation AEGIS, are being made to track down this individual. Again, I commend the work of the Australian Border Force and the Australian Federal Police, working with state and territory law enforcement officials to ensure community safety.
I might say two other things, if I may, on this. Firstly, the High Court has just handed down its reasons for its decision in the matter which led to this, a matter in which of course the Commonwealth vigorously opposed the case brought by the plaintiff. I make that very clear. We will be considering those reasons for decisions and, I hope, working with all members and indeed all senators to put in place a strong legal framework, an enduring legal framework, for community safety. But, on that note, I remind the shadow minister and all members that yesterday a bill passed through the House to strengthen the regime for community safety.
The Minister for Home Affairs and the Leader of the Opposition, I'm trying to call the member for Wannon on a point of order.
I haven't called you yet. Just wait; you'll get the call when everyone settles down.
The member for La Trobe is warned. Do not interject while I'm trying to take a point of order from the shadow minister. The member for Wannon has the call.
The question referred to the full number of people who had been released following the orders of the High Court. The legislation that is being referred to was directly relevant to actions being taken against those people. Those opposite might be embarrassed that they voted against those tougher conditions, but it's relevant to the question they just asked.
Honourable members interjecting
Order! The member for Wannon will cease interjecting. The minister for infrastructure will cease interjecting. The Leader of the Opposition—and the deputy leader, for good measure—will cease interjecting.
The minister was asked a question about a specific individual. He is addressing the topic of the question. I am going to ask him for the remainder of his answer to keep it relevant to the original question.
I think the issue here is the shadow minister knows I have directly dealt with his question but he doesn't like being reminded that twice yesterday he voted against offence provisions that go to visa conditions that are proposed to keep people safe. He also voted against arrangements to improve electronic monitoring. He, like the Leader of the Opposition, likes to talk tough and he likes to talk about strength, but his voting record is exactly the opposite. Tough talk does not keep communities safe. Strong laws do. Why won't they vote for them?
My question is to the Minister for Home Affairs. What has the Albanese Labor government done to keep the Australian community safe since the High Court decision on NZYQ, and have there been any barriers to the government's plans?
Opposition members interjecting—
I am grateful for the question from my friend the member for Blair. It gives me the opportunity to address the complete hypocrisy of the last question that came from those opposite. The No. 1 priority of our government is the safety of the Australian community. I want to credit the minister for immigration on the leadership that he has shown on leading us through what has been a difficult High Court decision.
We always hope in Australian politics—and I certainly know that the community out there hopes for this—that, when it comes to matters like the protection of Australians, the two major parties can stand together in a bipartisan manner. So let's look at what the opposition have done in relation to community safety in recent days. What we have heard is a lot of rhetoric from those opposite talking about community safety, but we heard from the minister for immigration about something unspeakable that has happened recently, done by a frontbench member of those opposite. That is that Senator Dean Smith wrote a letter to our government lobbying for the release from detention of a convicted child sex offender. This is a remarkable thing to have done. A person who has reached a position of power in this parliament chose to use that position of power to advocate for a child sex offender.
Resume your seat. Leader of the Opposition, this is the second time you have done this today.
The Minister for Home Affairs is not helping her or anyone else. This is not the opportunity to make debating points. The Leader of the Opposition continues to do that. Question time will not operate that way. It hasn't operated that way and it is not about to start. This habit will cease or otherwise he will be warned and he may not remain in here for the balance of question time. The minister has the call and will be heard in silence.
I think it's pretty clear that the Leader of the Opposition doesn't want to hear the facts about what members of his frontbench have been up to. What we have heard from Senator Smith is outrageous. He wrote not once but twice to the minister advocating for the release of a child sex offender.
What we know is that this particular individual sexually abused a young girl, consensually and nonconsensually.
He is being held in immigration detention by our government, and that is where we intend to keep him. Now, I wish I could say the same of those opposite.
I would like to report that that's the end of where the differences on community safety lie between the two parties, but that's not the case, because what we just heard from the Minister for Immigration is absolutely accurate. That is, when we brought laws before this parliament—
Member for Fisher!
Order! The Minister for Regional Development—
The Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs is warned, and if the Minister for Regional Development continues to interject she'll be warned as well. I can't hear what the minister is saying, because members on my right are continually interjecting. Ministers or not, you won't be here for the remainder of question time. The minister has the call.
Now, it's not the only difference in approach that we've seen this week, and all of you who were here in the House last night would have witnessed something that was truly extraordinary to me, and that is that when the Minister for Immigration brought forward strong laws to attach criminal offences for child sex offenders going near schools and childcare centres the opposition came in here and voted against it. I want people to remember that as they listen to the debate over the coming days, because the truth is that there is one side of politics here that is trying to do the right thing and adapt to the High Court change and do so in the interests of the community and another side of politics that's being hypocritical and just trying to score political points. (Time expired)