House debates

Tuesday, 28 November 2023

Questions without Notice

Community Safety

3:15 pm

Photo of Alison ByrnesAlison Byrnes (Cunningham, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs. How is the Albanese government working to change laws to keep the community safe, and what approaches has the government rejected?

3:16 pm

Photo of Andrew GilesAndrew Giles (Scullin, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank my friend the member for Cunningham, who, like all of us on this side of the House, is determined to do everything she can in this place to keep communities safe. I'm sure she joins me in thanking the outstanding members of the Australian Border Force and the Australian Federal Police, who have been working so hard with state and territory authorities to ensure community safety.

As I said earlier, yesterday this House passed legislation to make strong laws stronger following the High Court's decision in the NZYQ case. As we consider the court's reasons for the decision, we are getting on with the job of doing all we can to keep communities safe—including by introducing new offence provisions which target those visa holders who have offences that relate to children and young people. Yesterday, members opposite voted against these laws not once but twice. That is an approach that we reject.

On the same day, the Leader of the Opposition was silent about Liberal frontbencher Senator Smith's request for a convicted paedophile to be released from detention on Christmas Island. Senator Smith wrote: 'After developing a relationship with a younger girl, he was convicted in 2015 of sexual penetration with a girl over the age of 13 and under the age of 16.' That's a quote. The frontbencher went on to ask that he be transferred from Christmas Island. Senator Smith acknowledged the seriousness of this man's offending, as we all must, but still requested he be released into the community anyway.

The question really is this: how can the Leader of the Opposition stand by a member of his leadership team calling for a paedophile to be released? In the past he has called for members of parliament to resign for the very same thing! He has said, and I quote him now, 'Why would a member of parliament defend anyone who has been convicted of paedophilia?' Yet a member of his leadership team has done exactly the same thing. Once again, he talks tough but acts weak. Back in 2018, when he was the minister responsible for immigration detention, media reports indicate that detainees at immigration detention centres escaped more than 80 times. Once again, he talks tough and he acts weak. In his two decades in public life, he has contributed nothing positive other than talking himself up—full of bluff and bluster, signifying absolutely nothing. This issue is a test of his words. He should stick to his words and agree that Senator Smith's letters are unacceptable, in which case his position is unacceptable, or his silence must be taken as an endorsement.