Monday, 14 July 2014
Regulations and Determinations
Migration Amendment (Bridging Visas–Code of Behaviour) Regulation 2013; Disallowance
I too rise to contribute to the debate on the disallowance motion of the Migration Amendment (Bridging Visas–Code of Behaviour) Regulation 2013. Despite what the Australian Greens say, the code of behaviour, itself, is an educative tool. When you release into the community thousands of people who have arrived here illegally by boat from very different backgrounds, then, as a government, we should at the very least, explain to these people what is expected of them in terms of their behaviour. Examples include people from Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan, who either do not speak English or have very limited knowledge of the English language. These people might come from cultures that are fundamentally different to our own—for example, cultures where women are not equal to men and who have had little to no exposure to Australian society.
The regulations that are sought to be disallowed are necessary as they provide the framework for the government to address community concerns about the behaviour of illegal maritime arrivals, who are in Australia temporarily as the holders of bridging visas. To put the numbers into context, Labor was forced to release tens of thousands of people into the community who turned up illegally by boat, because the detention network could no longer cope with the unprecedented level of border protection failure experienced under the former government's watch.
Today, there are more than 25,000 people living in the community on bridging visas, who are part of a legacy case load in excess of 30,000 people, who arrived illegally by boat and were left behind by the previous government. To date, a total of 68 illegal maritime arrivals on bridging visa Es have had their bridging visas cancelled on the basis of criminal charges since 7 September 2013. For the benefit of all senators, these cancellations have been based on charges and convictions for offences, including theft, shoplifting, indecent assault, indecent assault of minors, domestic violence, assault with a weapon, assault occasioning bodily harm, wounding with intent, driving under the influence, stalking, people smuggling, attempting to obtain prohibited drugs, aggravated sexual assault on a person under the age of 16, rape and murder.
I remind senators that codes of behaviour are currently in force in both held and community detention. Therefore, it makes no sense at all that such codes of behaviour are not applied to those living in the community whose status has not yet been determined. Let us just remind ourselves that we already have codes of behaviour that are in place. They are in place in held detention and in community detention. Why then is it unfair to have a code of behaviour in place for another group of asylum seekers who are living in the community?
The grant of a bridging visa to an IMA is a privilege. It is not a right. This government has a zero tolerance approach to those who violate the privilege they have been granted to live in the Australian community. The government makes no apologies for providing a strong and an enforceable reminder of the behaviour that is expected of people living in the community on a bridging visa. As I have already stated, the code of behaviour is both an educative tool in terms of what the person's expectation is and a tool to limit non-compliance as it serves to clearly communicate expectations and standards of behaviour.
Listening to the Australian Greens on this issue, you would think that the code of behaviour places unnecessary and restrictive burdens on asylum seekers in the community. But for those unfamiliar with the code, let me just address what is actually in the code. I would say, everything listed in the code of behaviour is common sense to those on this side of the chamber and to every other member of the Australian society The code, itself, contains six dot points:
• You must not disobey any Australian laws including Australian road laws; you must cooperate with all lawful instructions given to you by police and other government officials;
• You must not make sexual contact with another person without that person’s consent, regardless of their age; you must never make sexual contact with someone under the age of consent;
• You must not take part in, or get involved in any kind of criminal behaviour in Australia, including violence against any person, including your family or government officials; deliberately damage property; give false identity documents or lie to a government official;
• You must not harass, intimidate or bully any other person or group of people or engage in any anti-social or disruptive activities that are inconsiderate, disrespectful or threaten the peaceful enjoyment of other members of the community;
• You must not refuse to comply with any health undertaking provided by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection or direction issued by the Chief Medical Officer (Immigration) to undertake treatment for a health condition for public health purposes;
• You must co-operate with all reasonable requests from the department or its agents in regard to the resolution of your status, including requests to attend interviews or to provide or obtain identity and/or travel documents.
The code itself is particularly relevant where these people have engaged in antisocial or violent behaviour that does not result in a criminal charge. Common issues reported include intoxication, fighting between residents at accommodation, sexual harassment, threats of violence, acting aggressively towards departmental or service provider staff and refusing to cooperate with attempts by the department to solve a person's immigration status.
Again I remind senators that, if you are going to release into the community tens of thousands of people who have had little to no prior exposure as to what is expected by way of Australian community standards, who have English not as a first language and in many cases do not speak English, who have cultures fundamentally different from the culture in Australia—and again I go to the example of where women are not equal to men—I would have thought that, at the very least as a government, we would take the time to explain to those people what is expected of them by way of general community standards in Australia. It is a fact that every single week since the election an average of almost two IMAs have been charged with criminal offences.
The code of behaviour makes it clear that antisocial as well as criminal behaviour will not be tolerated. It sets out clear standards of behaviour and expectations relating to the values that are important to Australian society. It also makes clear that bridging visa holders are expected to cooperate with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection regarding the resolution of their status. The code itself provides a proper basis for bridging visas to be cancelled and to prevent people from reapplying depending on the seriousness of the breach. In cases where criminal charges are laid, visas are now cancelled by this government and the alleged offender taken back immediately into held detention until their case is determined.
The grant of a bridging visa to an IMA is a privilege; it is not a right. This government has a zero tolerance approach to those who violate the privilege they have been given by way of living in the Australian community. This government makes no apology for providing a strong and enforceable reminder of the behaviour expected of people living in the community. Again, just for the record, in relation to the 68 IMA bridging visas which have been cancelled on the basis of criminal charges since 7 September 2013, I remind the Senate of the incidents for which these visas were cancelled: theft, shoplifting, indecent assault, indecent assault of minors, domestic violence, assault with a weapon, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, wounding with intent, driving under the influence, stalking, people smuggling, attempting to obtain prohibited drugs, aggravated sexual assault on a person under the age of 16 years, rape and murder. Again I state that this government makes no apologies at all for sending a strong and enforceable reminder of the behaviour expected of people living in the community on a bridging visa.