Senate debates

Thursday, 6 December 2018


Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2018; Second Reading

1:13 pm

Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Australian Conservatives) Share this | Hansard source

The Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2018 was, relatively speaking, a relatively innocuous piece of housekeeping that was designed to support Australia's world-leading successful border protection policies. It is no secret that there are those in this chamber, in the other place and out there in the broader community who don't like these successful border protection policies, who think we should be pursuing a different case.

Senator Storer belled the cat then, when he said the Greens are at the forefront of stopping detention for unlawful entrants. That's what worries me: the Greens are at the forefront of it. We know how the Greens respond to the people-smuggling industry. To be frank, they don't give a hoot. They do not give a hoot. They have given excuse after excuse for why it's okay for people to travel through multiple countries, pay tens of thousands of dollars to people to put them in a leaky boat, risk their lives at sea and lose their lives at sea. The Greens think that's okay. Senator Storer, I'm sorry—I say through you, Mr Acting Deputy President Sterle—but I cannot under any circumstances think that that is a virtue.

Even worse, when the thousand or so people lost their lives at sea under the Green-Labor alliance, we had the cavalier dismissal of these tragic deaths by the likes of Senator Hanson-Young, who purports to care but then on the public record says, 'Accidents happen; tragedies happen.' She shrugged her shoulders. It's not her fault—'Move along here; there is nothing to see.' Unfortunately, those deaths are inked indelibly on the legislation that was repealed by the Labor-Greens alliance. It is a tragedy and a travesty that, after five or six years of successfully stopping the boats and putting an end to this insidious industry, the crack has been opened up again. And it only needs to be opened up a sliver for the people smugglers to take advantage of the vulnerable who are seeking a better life, part them from their money and put them back on the boats again.

I don't know anybody who doesn't have compassion for those who are unwell and who doesn't have compassion for those who strive for a better life for themselves and their families. But, if a country is not prepared to defend its borders, if a country is not prepared to stand up for an orderly and sensible migration program, including a humanitarian one, it loses its reason for being. A country is united by its borders, if nothing else. It should be united by culture, values and ideas, but it is united by its borders. If you believe it's okay for people to jump the queue—and there is a queue to come to Australia, I can assure you of that—and if you think it's okay to perpetuate and foster a business that smuggles people and encourages them to break the law, I think you're barking mad.

Unfortunately, there are people who are barking mad in politics and in the advocacy space, and now we see them taking a relatively innocuous housekeeping bill and trying to dress it up as some moral debate about taking children off Nauru and Manus Island in the name of some compassion. Let me tell you how that will end up: it will open up the people-smuggling business again. They will say: 'We're open for business. It might take you a bit of time, but we can get there.' And they'll be aided and abetted by people in this place, by a phalanx of doctors who will make all sorts of claims because they're ideologically wedded to an open-borders policy, and it's starting here. I'm appalled. But it gives the Australian people an opportunity to understand what life would be like under a Shorten-Greens dominated government. For all the posturing and all the claims that, 'Nothing will change under us; it will be a fairer, more just system,' you know that underpinning that is always the agenda to leave the door ajar just a little bit—leave it a little bit unguarded to open it up. We're seeing that here today.

I call upon Labor to reject the hijacking of a housekeeping bill in the name of some humanitarian efforts that are using children as pawns in a political game which is unedifying. Let's face the facts: not everyone wants to live on a tropical island paradise. I understand that—not everyone does. But, if you're going to be living on Nauru—I'm not going to demean Nauru or diminish the land or the people as others in this place will do—and the Australian government is educating your children and providing you with accommodation, a safe place to be and freedom to go out and about wherever you like, and is feeding you and providing you with free medical care and attention, that's better than many communities have it in Australia. Yet I don't hear the posturing and I don't hear the condemnation of what's happening in some of our Indigenous communities, where kids are being abused every single day. They're excused by the same people who are claiming to stick up for those who are on Nauru because they've paid the people smugglers. They want to open the people-smuggler system. They want to help a bunch of people over there in Nauru who are being cared for better than the First Australians, in many instances. It's an appalling act of hypocrisy.

We have got to have compassion for what happens in the rest of the world, yes, but shouldn't our primary aim, if we are going to help the most disadvantaged, be to look within our own community first and foremost? If you go to an Indigenous community, you will see higher rates of suicide, mental health issues, substance abuse issues, a lack of jobs and educational opportunities and a lack of health care. You will see abhorrent sexual diseases like syphilis. The only occurrence of them, according to the statistics I have, in children under 10 in this country is in Indigenous communities. Yet the silence is deafening from those who want to stick up for people who are on Nauru through their own actions and who are being cared for better than our First Australians. Spare me the hypocrisy here. It is galling. It is breathtaking.

I don't think the Australian people are being well served on the very last day of this year's parliamentary sittings by having to go through such an unedifying spectacle, where children are being used as pawns in a political game designed to discredit the government. To be frank, the government doesn't need any more assistance in discrediting itself. I see Senator Cormann doesn't like that comment, but the reality is that they've done enormous damage through the revolving door of prime ministers and their policy areas, where they're putting taxes up one day and cutting them the next, and so forth. They're inconsistent. Some of the people there are of questionable judgement and character, but it is what it is. The one thing the government's got right, that it's been consistent on and been advocates for, is defending Australia's borders and the offshore processing regime, which is more humane and more just, and which protects and saves lives, unlike the policies of those on the other side.

Simply through the sheer opportunism of those who want to virtue-signal rather than look at the reality of what we're dealing with, many thousands of lives could be put at risk because this Senate, or the House of Representatives, may leave the national security and border protection laws ajar and outsource Australia's domestic sovereignty, if I can say that—the principles of the Westminster system and the role of executive government and the minister—to unelected doctors. There are any number of doctors who have political views and ideology, and sometimes—sometimes—they trump the Hippocratic oath. Sometimes they do. 'First do no harm' is the Hippocratic oath. Yet you have doctors out there, like Dr Philip Nitschke—until he was disqualified—openly putting people to death. Is he going to be the person who goes to Nauru and determines someone's mental health? He couldn't even determine whether someone was terminally ill or just depressed when he helped kill that poor lady in Darwin all those years ago.

Australia's border protection policies are the envy of the world. Those who laughed at them all those years ago are wishing that they'd enabled them now. If you go to Europe, the open border policies of Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, have done irreparable damage to the German psyche and their way of life; we know that. We also know that, in places like Italy, France, Greece and Turkey, the people-smuggling business has had tragic results. Governments all over the world are saying, 'Hey, Australia managed to get it right.' And just as they're coming to their senses, you find a motley bunch trying to undo the good that has been done.

Our immigration policies in this country have to work in our cultural, social and economic interest. The Australian Conservatives is a party that has a comprehensive policy that was designed to do exactly that. We believe that those who come here choose to come here and must contribute to Australia. If they're in receipt of welfare, they should be expected to repay that over the course of time through the taxation system. We believe that it's no longer appropriate to be bound by a UN refugee convention that was established in the 1950s for a different time and is now being used against us. We believe that we shouldn't resettle those who arrive illegally in this country. There's no doubt further reforms are needed. We need to reform the visa class. We need to reform the processes used to obtain visas—the misuse and abuse of them and the corruption of them, quite frankly, both in this country and abroad, where people are gaming the system, just like some people in politics today want to help alleged refugees to game the system. I don't want to stand for the dismantling of our successful border protection policies. I want to enhance and improve them. I want to improve Australia's national security through reform of our immigration system. That's the platform that the Australian Conservatives will be advocating for for a very long time.

In respect of this particular legislation, I know there are amendments coming. We've got some ourselves. I move the amendment as circulated on sheet 8621:

At the end of the motion, add:

", but the Senate is of the view that:

(a) the government should promptly release the statutory review of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, particularly those aspects relating to the Migration and Refugee Divisions, conducted by the Honourable Ian Callinan AC QC;

(b) the government should take all possible steps to prevent the presentation of late evidence in migration and refugee cases;

(c) only Australian citizens should be given access to legal aid assistance in cases in the Migration and Review Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal; and

(d) if legal aid is granted in the Migration and Review Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to persons who are not Australian citizens, then the quantum of the grant of legal aid should be recovered via the taxation system in future years".

They're four simple premises. One is:

… the government should promptly release the statutory review of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, particularly those aspects relating to the Migration and Refugee Divisions, conducted by the Honourable Ian Callinan AC QC …

With respect to that, we know that former Justice Callinan was expected to have that report completed at the end of October. I presumed it would have gone to the government by now, but, of course, yesterday the Minister representing the Attorney-General said it hadn't been received. It seems to have been received by TheDaily Telegraph but not by the government and the minister. I'm not sure how that quite works, but sometimes the processes of government confound even me, and I've been around here for a little while. It's absolutely appropriate that the report should be released promptly, and I think the government needs to be held to account for that.

We're also moving, in respect of cases before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal:

… the government should take all possible steps to prevent the presentation of late evidence in migration and refugee cases;

What happens is that the minister of the day will say, 'You're a convicted paedophile or a terrorist or a substantive crook or an Iranian tourist'—I was asked what an Iranian tourist is. They're the people who come here, seek asylum because they're threatened with death in Iran, and then, as soon as they're granted asylum, they go back to Iran for a holiday and then come back here again. That's called the Iranian tourist rort. Let me tell you that we're going to put an end to that. You shouldn't be able to go to the AAT with a deportation order and all of a sudden have taxpayer funded lawyers and advocates all jump in with late evidence to try to put an end to the order. We've got to stop the rorts. It's within the government's purview to do that, and they should do it.

That brings me to the next part of the amendment:

… only Australian citizens should be given access to legal aid assistance in cases in the Migration and Review Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal …

Why is it that Australia's taxpayers are being put on the hook and asked to pay for the defence of the indefensible—the paedophiles, the terrorists, the habitual criminals, the Iranian tourists—who are sucking at the taxpayer's teat in order to fund the defence of their own crimes? It's an appalling indictment upon our system. There are many Australians who don't qualify for legal aid and can't afford legal representation, yet, somehow, there is the injustice that aid is being provided to those who aren't even our citizens.

Paragraph (d) states:

if legal aid is granted in the Migration and Review Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to persons who are not Australian citizens, then the quantum of the grant of legal aid should be recovered via the taxation system in future years.

That means if legal aid is provided to a non-Australian citizen and they're successful and they get to remain in the country despite their terrorism offences or paedophilia offences or habitual crimes or sexual harassment or being Iranian tourists and lying—if they happen to get through that, which is not unusual in a stacked tribunal like the AAT—then they should be expected to repay that benefit through the taxation system, through an additional impost or, indeed, through the welfare system. Let's remind ourselves that many of these people who come here are still on welfare 10 years later. In fact, in some classes of refugee, up to 95 per cent of people are still obtaining welfare benefits 10 years after the event.

It's been indicated to me that there are a number of people in this chamber who have different views on some of these things. Madam Deputy President, I would ask that when you put these they be dealt with individually, because I think some of them are absolutely critical to the future success of this. At the end of these amendments, I will also ask that there be a paragraph (e) applied. Paragraph (e) is, quite simply, 'that consideration of the bill be deferred until after the next federal election.'

The battlelines need to be drawn. The battlelines need to be drawn for the Australian people. No matter how hopeless they may think this government is, no matter how uninspired they may be by the opposite side and the alternative government, there is one clear line of demarcation, and that is that the coalition are absolutely, positively right on defending Australia's borders. We need an orderly migration program. We need a migration program that is humane, that is caring, that is compassionate and that is going to work in Australia's economic, social and cultural interests. What is being proposed today, what has been cobbled together in such an imprudent fury, will damage that position. If you want to know how imprudent it is, this bill was brought in, but there's a guillotine, so we're not going to be able to debate all the things substantially and we're not going to be able to deal with it. Senator Wong, in trying to close down even a second reading debate, was hoist with her own petard. Her plotting and Machiavellian scheming worked against her. If she can't even trust herself to get her own plotting and scheming right, how can the Australian people trust her as the foreign minister or trust Mr Shorten as the Prime Minister of this country?

If you care for Australia, if you care for our refugees, if you care for our migration policies, if you care for our humanitarian intake, you will vote against this bill as it's proposed to be amended. I say that and I thank the Senate for their time.


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