Senate debates

Monday, 13 February 2017


Migration Amendment (Character Cancellation Consequential Provisions) Bill 2016; Second Reading

10:01 am

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

When this debate adjourned last week I was speaking about the nature of this bill, the Migration Amendment (Character Cancellation Consequential Provisions) Bill, specifically about the fact that it extends the minister's power to cancel visas and, in fact, not only allows him to overrule decisions made by officials of his department but gives him the power to overturn a decision of a review tribunal. As I was pointing out, that exempts him from the rules of natural justice.

It is also worth the Senate's noting that these amendments also mean that those subject to a minister's cancellation power could be detained if there is a mere reasonable suspicion that the minister might cancel their visa—in effect, allowing the government to pre-empt a ruling by the judicial system. Another way of putting that, of course, is to presume a person guilty before they have an opportunity to prove their innocence. In that context, it is worth noting also that in Australia these days you can be retained in prison for something you might do in the future. It is an incredibly Orwellian series of amendment bills that we are seeing this government bring before the parliament, that continue an erosion of the human rights and civil liberties in this country that so many Australians have fought to protect over the last century and more, and for which so many Australians have, tragically, died.

This bill removes important procedural safeguards which deprive those affected of information regarding their legal and administrative options. We are talking here about people who are potentially in prison, people who are already extremely vulnerable people and who may not know their rights, who may not know the law and who in some cases may not even speak or understand English to a satisfactory level.

The Refugee Council of Australia summed it up very well, in the Australian Greens view, in their submission to the inquiry into the bill. They said the bill 'compounds the grave unfairness' of provisions introduced in 2014, including:

… automatic cancellation of visas on certain grounds, new personal powers of the Minister to set aside decisions by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal or Departmental officers, and increasing the circumstances in which a person would fail the 'character test'.

    That is the problem in this bill, articulated in a nutshell, very succinctly and clearly, by the Refugee Council of Australia. It is the Greens submission to the Senate that there is a lack of procedural fairness in the amendments proposed and an absence of appropriate safeguards in the new cancellation process. Of course, submissions to the inquiry into the bill reflect that. Those submissions include that of the Refugee Council of Australia but are not limited to that one. The Greens will not be supporting this unfair bill.

    During my second reading contribution last week I foreshadowed that the Greens would be moving a second reading amendment, so now I move the amendment on sheet 8040 revised:

    At the end of the motion, add:

    ", but the Senate is of the opinion that the Australian Parliament should have the right to deny entry to any Head of State or Head of Government on character grounds.".

    I want to speak briefly to this amendment. At the moment, character test provisions are indeed in place, thanks to the construct of the existing act. However, they are to be applied by the minister for immigration. We have no confidence that the current minister for immigration will apply the character test as constructed in the act in any reasonable way at all.

    We want to be clear that we are only talking here about a potential entry by a head of state or head of government. One of the reasons we think the parliament should have the capacity to make this decision is that visits by heads of state or heads of government are inevitably very symbolic visits. The things that happen while a head of government is here are widely reported in the media, and whether or not Australia as a country allows a head of state to visit our country is something that will influence the political conversation in this country and something that a lot of Australians will feel very strongly about.

    Rather than the consideration around the character of a head of state or head of government happening inside the minister's head, which is where it happens at the moment under the current provisions of the act, we think that the parliament should have the right to make that determination. In other words, the parliament should be able to have a debate about whether a head of state or head of government can come into Australia in the context of that person's character. We could have the debate in front of the Australian people, in front of the media who report on what we do in this place. It is effectively a motion which allows for sunlight to be shone on an assessment of the character of a foreign head of state or head of government. We believe an appropriate mechanism would be for any senator to be able to effectively move a disallowance motion that would allow the Senate to reject the entry of a foreign head of state or head of government on character grounds.

    I am not going to make any bones about this. This was crystallised for us by the election of Donald Trump as the US president, and I said that publicly last week. We would submit that, on any reasonable assessment of Mr Trump's character, he would fail the character test. He has greenlighted sexual assault on women. He has mocked people with disabilities. He is undermining fundamental rule of law in the United States. There have been any number of actions taken by Mr Trump and words uttered by Mr Trump, whether they be in interviews, press conferences or via his Twitter account, that call into serious question his character. Voting against this motion put forward by the Greens would effectively be the parliament voting to deny itself the opportunity to make their views heard on this matter. So I do commend this amendment to the Senate.

    10:11 am

    Photo of Sam DastyariSam Dastyari (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

    This is an important piece of legislation, though its consequences are somewhat limited. This is a bill that the Labor Party will be supporting. We will be supporting this bill because it is consequential to the Migration Amendment (Character and General Visa Cancellation) Act 2014, which Labor has also supported. The 2014 act was designed to strengthen the existing character and general visa cancellation provisions within the Migration Act to ensure that noncitizens who commit crimes in Australia and pose a risk to the Australian community or represent an integrity concern are appropriately considered for visa refusal or cancellation.

    I want to commend the minister for this piece of legislation and for working with the Labor Party and other parties to make sure it is a reasonable and sensible bill. I want to put on the record that there are red lines when it comes to these types of legislation and the position of the Labor Party. I note this is also the position the government has had very strongly. The idea of banning people outright based on ethnicity or religion as whole groups is not something that should or can be supported. This bill strengthens the provisions that allow case-by-case assessment. There are individuals that should be banned. There are individuals who should not be here. Those people should not be here in their role as individuals. But the idea of wholescale migration bans—Muslim bans, whatever you want to call them—is not something that we support.

    But I have to say there has been a lot of talk recently about a Muslim ban. There has been talk of a Muslim ban by other members of this chamber, other senators proposing they want to take this type of legislation further and go all out towards banning Muslims. All of this talk of a Muslim ban has me very worried for my friend Nazeem Hussain. Nazeem is currently stuck in Africa on the show, I'm a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here. While many of us who know him have questioned over the years whether he is or is not actually a celebrity, that is beside the point. Someone needs to get the message to Nazeem that there are people in this chamber who are not only proposing a Muslim ban but, even worse, have told me privately they will vote for Steve Price.

    Last night I was devastated to see Tom Arnold get sent home and not Nazeem. Nazeem is being funny, likeable, talented and charming. He does not belong on this show. Nazeem, if we do not get you back to Australia soon, mate, they might get a Muslim ban up here and you will be stuck in Africa indefinitely. Of course, some people might say they want to vote for you to send a strong message about multiculturalism, but that is little comfort when you spend the rest of your life eating non-halal food in Africa, nursing your winning trophy. There are only so many job opportunities for a Waleed Aly impersonator in Cape Town. We need to get Nazeem out of there. So I say to Nazeem's friends, Karl Chandler, Tommy Dassalo and the Little Dum Dum Club, I am going to say something that you will never hear Senator Hanson ever say in the chamber: let's kick this ethnic out, but bring him to Australia. Thank you.

    10:14 am

    Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

    As a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia, I rise to speak to the Migration Amendment (Character Cancellation Consequential Provisions) Bill 2016. This bill is a welcome first step in a set of policies proposed and supported by Pauline Hanson's One Nation party. We see the bill as a beginning in moving the discussion on a core issue of concern to Australians across our nation, from the quantity of immigration to the quality of immigration. When we talk about quality, we talk about the willingness and ability of immigrants to assimilate. May we remind all parliamentarians that governments have three core responsibilities: to protect life, to protect property and to protect freedom. As part of our sworn duties we have a solemn responsibility to preserve social cohesion, which flows from a secure sense of national identity.

    I say to the establishment among us in this chamber who want to understand the Trump phenomenon and the Brexit phenomenon and Pauline Hanson's phenomenal success: to understand what drives people's needs, what people are saying to us as we travel and listen across this great country, we all need to get to the root of people's economic concerns. To everyday Australians, jobs matter. That is why we need to cut immigration quantity. More importantly, social cohesion matters—so does trust, so does a sense of belonging. These are all qualities that tap into people's sense of achievement, and if people have no job and the government cannot support them because they are burdened by non-assimilating immigrants, they feel ostracised in their own country, forgotten, taken advantage of.

    Culture and integration matter to Australians. These values are undermined by rapid diversity, especially when Islam is in the mix. The Scanlon surveys of social cohesion conducted annually out of Monash University demonstrate our point specifically: social cohesion is important to Australians. Dr Frank Salter, the One Nation academic researcher in sociological matters, has reviewed the international literature on diversity, including extensive studies from Harvard University. The data supports what we say about cohesion. Global studies converge with the Australian data. As much as the Greens try, the data cannot be hidden, because people see it and feel it every day, all around them. Senator Hanson has been talking about social cohesion for as long as she has been on the national stage. In her first speech as a senator, she talked about how precious a sense of belonging really is, as well as trust. She said, 'It is about belonging, commitment to fight for, protect and respect. This will never be traded or given up for diversity.'

    Social cohesion comes from national identity, and that is something that grows organically. It cannot be legislated. It cannot be imposed top down by condescending politicians and bureaucrats—the establishment elites. It cannot be created by naming government departments 'Multicultural Affairs'. Social cohesion can come only from the people. But it can be wrecked by sloppy governments, as Minister Dutton courageously admitted last year when he chided his own party for its immigration policies of the 1980s. For his courage Minister Dutton was pilloried by the Labor-Green coalition that fails to understand the essence of national cohesion and identity. Everyone gets it, except for the chattering classes. Instead of no nation, we must have one nation.

    My colleague Senator Burston in his first speech noted the social research science on diversity and social cohesion. The research has been done overseas and in Australia. The data indicates that the social fabric in this country is fraying, and that is why voters are deserting the old parties. The fraying of our identity was foretold, was predicted, was warned of. The Liberal and Labor parties imposed permanent mass immigration without taking national identity into account or even asking voters' permission. Senator Burston spoke of the coldness and arrogance of our political elites, and I fully support his views.

    Poverty—that is, an individual's economic situation—cannot explain why more Muslims have tried to volunteer to fight in the Middle East for outlawed Islamist forces than are presently in the Australian armed forces fighting in that theatre. Economics cannot explain why Australians are fleeing areas of heavy migrant settlement, especially Islamic settlement. This is not only white flight, it is every kind of flight. Every type of Australian is fleeing these new ghettos. In our fraying society, self-segregation has become a reality. We the people are seeking to protect our children, our daughters, our property, our liberty.

    There are solutions to these problems that go beyond what is proposed in this bill. If we applied international standards of social impact assessment to the selection of immigrants, the gradual process of assimilation would begin to restore social cohesion, belonging and trust. How can we expect people who are wedded to an ideology masquerading as a religion that specifically precludes assimilation to assimilate and integrate? We cannot.

    Pauline Hanson's One Nation is willing to say the things that need to be said and do the things that need to be done. We listen to the people of Australia across our nation and implement the policies people have asked us to champion. A common question I am asked is: how many Australians complain of or are afraid of Buddhists, who comprise a larger proportion of our nation than those of Islamic ideology? Australians do not complain about Buddhists, or Sikhs, or Hindus, or Jews or Catholics or Protestants and so on.

    So it is not only the scale of immigration that counts but the content—the quality. If immigrants are to assimilate we should be choosing those from cultures with a track record of ready assimilation. That is why we need to congratulate the minister for immigration for his success in the implementation of the operational plan to take control of our country's borders, after the open borders policies of Labor-Greens coalition. It is no wonder that a recent Channel 7 poll found the number of supporters of a ban on Islamic immigration all but matched those opposing a ban. Do I need to remind that a poll last year from even the control-oriented Essential polling group found that more people supported a ban on Islamic immigration than opposed it? That Essential poll showed that over one-third of Greens voters supported a ban on Islamic immigration. What was the Greens leader's response? Of course, being left wing—that is, control oriented—Senator Di Natale said his party needed to do more educating. Isn't that so typical of the Greens? Speaking to sell, not listening to learn.

    That reminds us all that under the Greens labelling and demonising of those with whom they disagree debate in Australia has been shut down. That is why people across Australia are asking what is happening to our nation. Senator Bernardi rightly said that the political elites and establishment are now being held accountable, and he left his party to join with us in holding the old establishment accountable.

    This bill is the first step in the crawl towards the conversation that needs to be had on quality of immigration. The parliament needs to get away from window dressing and face core issues. We need all remember that we do not lock our home at night because we hate the people outside; we lock our home because we love the people inside. The real division in politics is not the confected and vague labels of Left versus Right or regressives versus conservatives; it is control versus freedom. In this case, to protect personal freedoms within Australia we must protect our borders.

    We in Pauline Hanson's One Nation party value diverse views, and we welcome those of varied religions and races and skin colours and ethnic groups and political persuasions within our borders who have assimilated. We value our nation, our Constitution our laws and our culture. Assimilation and integration occur only when the pace, or quantity, of immigration does not swamp the host culture and when the quality of immigration focuses on people with the intent, willingness and ability to assimilate. We need to cancel visas of people with a criminal history. This bill is an important first step, and we support the character and visa amendment, because instead of no nation we must have one nation.

    10:25 am

    Photo of Michaelia CashMichaelia Cash (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Women) Share this | | Hansard source

    I thank all senators for their contribution to the debate on the Migration Amendment (Character Cancellation Consequential Provisions) Bill 2016, and in particular I thank the opposition for their comments and their support of this particular piece of legislation. It is important to note that the measures in this bill have previously been reviewed by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee. I note that the committee recommended that the bill be passed subject to the explanatory memorandum being amended to further clarify the operation of the retrospective provisions of the bill, and I am pleased to advise the chamber that this has been done.

    A key amendment made by the Migration Amendment (Character and General Visa Cancellation) Act was the introduction of mandatory visa cancellation for noncitizens in jail serving a full-time custodial sentence of imprisonment and who have been sentenced to 12 months imprisonment or have been found guilty of sexually-based offences involving a child. The vast majority of noncitizens who have had their visas cancelled under the mandatory cancellation powers are repeat offenders with multiple criminal convictions in Australia or serious or violent offenders. The amendments to the bill the Senate is currently debating are important consequential amendments that will ensure that the character and cancellation provisions in the Migration Act operate effectively as intended following amendments made in December 2014 by the Migration Amendment (Character and General Visa Cancellation) Act 2014.

    The government will not be supporting the second reading amendment moved by Senator McKim on behalf of the Australian Greens. There is no need for this amendment. There are already robust arrangements in place to prevent a person of character concern from travelling to and entering Australia. Every person wishing to travel to and enter Australia must hold a visa. There are special visa arrangements in place for certain categories of people, such as guests of government and members of the royal family, and this includes heads of state and foreign dignitaries. I commend the bill to the Senate.

    Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

    The question is that the second reading amendment moved by Senator McKim be agreed to.

    The question is that the bill now be read a second time.