Thursday, 6 December 2018
Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2018; Second Reading
Senator Wong interjecting—
Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting—
She was earlier, but I have to grant the leader of the opposition precedence.
Senator Cormann interjecting—
Senator Cormann, I don't time people jumping up. I have to call the Leader of the Opposition.
Cancel the division. I have been advised by the Clerk that, under the provisions of the limitation of debate order passed by the Senate, closure on the debate cannot be moved, so we will proceed with the debate. Senator Fierravanti-Wells.
Thank you, Mr President. I rise to speak on the Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2018. This is a technical omnibus bill which seeks to strengthen even further the coalition's strong border protection framework.
Schedule 1 amendments provide that when an unlawful noncitizen's removal from Australia is aborted for any reason—for example, refusal of entry by a transit country—and the person needs to be returned to Australia that person can re-enter Australia lawfully without a visa. The amendments will also make it clear that such a person will be taken never to have left the migration zone and will continue to be subject to visa application bars.
Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President O'Sullivan. The amendments make it clear that such a person will be taken never to have left the migration zone and will continue to be subject to visa application bars—that is, they cannot apply for certain visas in Australia.
Schedule 2 changes will broaden the channels by which the Department of Home Affairs can provide documents to people, by adding the facility of an online account. It does not limit or remove any of the existing methods. There are other, minor amendments relating to the refund or drawback of duty in circumstances where a person has been paid a refund or drawback that they were not entitled to. Also there are changes to the passenger movement charge regime and other minor technical changes to wording in two provisions of the Customs Act.
However, what is clear is that those opposite will seek to propose amendments that will challenge the effectiveness of our border protection system. Today we are seeing Labor team up with the Greens to give the green light to people smugglers. This is what the people smugglers have been waiting for. Here we have Labor putting at risk our border protection regime. This is an astonishing move by the Leader of the Opposition and those opposite. The last time Labor joined with the Greens on border security, 50,000 people arrived illegally, 8,000 children were placed in detention and, tragically, 1,200 people were drowned at sea. There is nothing compassionate about a policy that will ensure boat arrivals start again.
The advice from our intelligence agencies is very clear: any weakening of our current border protection policies will reopen the people smuggling trade, and we will once again be facing deaths at sea. This government will not allow this to happen. You don't get children off Nauru by putting more children on Nauru. It has been the coalition government's policy. We got all the children out of detention and we have closed 17 detention centres in Australia. In fact, there are more medical staff on Nauru than there are children. Every child who requires specialised medical treatment is getting it and has been transferred without compromising security. We have been doing this quietly and in a very appropriate way.
Therefore, any deal with the Greens would go against everything that Labor has been saying for five years, proving yet again that Bill Shorten and the Labor Party cannot be trusted when it comes to border protection. Remember Kevin Rudd's promises before the 2007 election that they would turn back the boats. The moment he became Prime Minister, the opposite happened. The people smugglers were back in business and we saw the 1,200 deaths at sea—and they're only the ones that we know about.
As Minister for International Development and the Pacific, I have had the opportunity to visit Nauru and to see for myself why Nauru is called the Pleasant Island. Today I would like to outline some of the lies and misrepresentations that those opposite have been peddling about this issue. The people of Nauru are warm, friendly and hospitable, so I find the description of the people of Nauru by those opposite contemptuous and offensive. Nauru has a population of approximately 12,000 people, made up of an indigenous Nauruan majority of about 10,500 people, predominantly of Micronesian origin; about 500 or 600 expats, including Australians, New Zealanders, Chinese, Indians, Filipinos and those from other Pacific island states; and approximately 1,000 asylum seekers and refugees.
Let me outline to those opposite what is actually happening on Nauru. When I visited, I toured Nauru Secondary School and the adjacent learning village site. There are about 10 schools on Nauru and over 3,000 students. Compulsory education begins with preschool. Students study towards a Queensland Certificate of Education, and QCE teachers are based in the Nauru secondary school system. There is also a centre for disabled children and youth of all ages, which I also had the privilege of visiting. The government of Nauru manages all the schools through its Department of Education. All children on Nauru attend schools. There it is no distinction between Nauruans and non-Nauruans. They travel together on the school bus. I actually saw it. There is one road that goes around the island, and we were stopped behind the school bus that stopped and picked up children, irrespective of whether they were Nauruans or non-Nauruans.
Australia contributed $11 million to the construction of buildings at the Nauru Secondary School, which opened in 2010. Since 2010, Australian support to the Nauruan education sector has contributed to increased enrolment rates and qualified teachers and the introduction of a new national curriculum that enables graduating secondary students to receive a Queensland Certificate of Education. We've done school refurbishments and we've constructed a new secondary school.
In 2017-18, Australia finalised an almost $3 million contribution to phase 2 of the Nauru Learning Village, which incorporates all higher education agencies in a single area, including the University of the South Pacific, technical and vocational training and a community library. This new campus, designed specifically for youth and adult education, aligns with Nauru's own TVET strategic plan. Of course, it is also disability-friendly and, again, open to everyone on the island.
I also visited the Nauru Lifeguard Service, which is supported by lifesaving groups here in Australia. Of course swimming is a popular pastime on Nauru, although there are very few suitable locations. It was great to meet the local lifesavers. The service is now part of Nauru's National Emergency Service and employs both Nauruans and refugee residents on its staff.
I spoke to local Nauruan business people, including expats. I was advised by the local bank manager that there are about 8,000 bank accounts in a population of 12,000—that is a considerable number of bank accounts—including hundreds from the refugee cohort. I attended an amazing Anzac Day dawn service attended by a cross-section of the whole island's population.
I visited the Nauru hospital. Following a fire at the hospital in August 2013 that destroyed four of its buildings, Australia contributed $11½ million to the hospital redevelopment project. The project was managed by Australian Border Force and implemented by their contractors. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection and Australian Border Force provided $16 million in funding. Phase 1 comprised the construction of new medical and surgical wings. Phase 2 was completed in 2017 and included new X-ray machines, a CT scanner, a new paediatrics ward, a pathology laboratory, water storage facilities, sewerage treatment and backup power generators and connection to demountable buildings which house dental and pathology laboratories. These facilities are comparable to services that I have seen in Sydney.
DFAT's broader support for the health sector in Nauru is provided in the form of direct grant funding of around $3 million a year to support the Nauru health sector strategy and provision of key health services on the island. We also usually provide advisers through our PACTAM program to assist capacity building on Nauru.
I visited the Nauru community resource centre, an Australian government funded project in partnership with the Nauru Department of Multicultural Affairs. Open to all residents of Nauru, it houses the main offices for the Department of Multicultural Affairs settlement staff, community liaison officers and service providers who assist local and refugee communities and provide a space for community meetings and functions. The centre aims to develop greater collaboration and interaction between Nauruan and refugee communities and is increasingly becoming a site for local community events.
At that time, I spoke with staff of the Australian NGO—non-government organisation—providing support to the government of Nauru to provide case management services to refugees in Nauru, with some staff drawn from the refugee community. I recall the conversation with one young woman who wanted to come to Australia. I explained to her why this was not possible. She told me that people in Australia had told her to wait for the change. And I asked her, 'What do you mean?' And she said, 'Change of government'. So that's the story that the Greens and others are peddling on Nauru: 'Just wait for a change and then you'll be able to come to Australia.' It is clear that those opposite, hell-bent on their own publicity, are giving false hope to people on Nauru. They are creating the impression things can change and they are giving these young people false hope. They are the ones creating the angst. They are the ones playing with the lives of these people and holding out false hope for them. They are the ones distorting the facts and creating the mental angst for their own base political purposes.
What does not emerge is that many in the refugee community are getting on with their lives. They are part of the community. They have started businesses. For example, a young man from Iran started a restaurant from his home, and it has now become a very popular place to eat and meet. Or there are the Iranian ladies who have started nail and beauty shops and now provide services which were not previously available. Many have met local Nauruans, now have families on the island and are well settled. As I drove around the island, I saw for myself what has been provided for the refugee community—often of a standard that is much better than for the local Nauruans. While some of the contractors that I spoke to operated out of the dongas, the new housing was being constructed for the refugee community.
Often those opposite wish to portray children behind wire fences. Well, one of the biggest problems on Nauru has been that dogs roam around the island. Regrettably, the introduction of aggressive dogs into the dog population has resulted in more dog attacks. Indeed, on my visit, a young disabled girl had been mauled by a dog and later died. Fences are crucial for protection purposes.
Many of the local contractors and businesses employ members of the refugee community. All of this highlights the lies that the Greens and their fellow travellers have been perpetrating for years. The false assertions brandished by those opposite that Nauru is a hellhole and it is a place of misery, death and torture that destroys innocent people is blatantly wrong and only used for base political purposes. The Greens assert that Nauru is unsafe for women and children and sending them back would be torture. That is blatantly wrong and only designed to sensationalise the situation and denigrate the people of Nauru.
So it was not surprising to see the article written by Paige Taylor in The Australian of 16 November entitled 'Refugees Pick Nauru Over US'. I want to pick up some crucial facts out of that article. It says:
Forty of the 300 refugees who left Nauru to resettle in the US have contacted the island nation asking to come back because life in America was harder than expected, the Nauruan President has revealed.
The President goes on in this article to talk about life on Nauru. The author of this article was afforded a visit to the island. Indeed, it's interesting to see that Ms Taylor, who has written about and covered asylum seeker issues for years and witnessed many things as part of this, has been able to write this piece in a very independent manner. In fairness to the people of Nauru, many of whom I met during my time as Minister for International Development and the Pacific, it is very important that this be said about their island home. In this article the President of Nauru talks about the benefits that have come to his island home as a consequence not only of the refugee processing centre. He states that regional refugee processing has outweighed the hurt of being labelled a prison and a hellhole in the international media. He says his people's history of exile and persecution made them sympathetic as a nation to refugees and that claims that the government mistreated or neglected refugees were untrue and painful.
He said, 'We try and understand the situation because there are people that have their own political agendas overseas and want to attack us because of our involvement in the process centre and our partnership with Australia, so we get caught in the middle.' He said, that few people outside Australia understood that refugees move freely around the island, they owned businesses, including a barber shop and a café, and worked for his government and have fallen in love with locals. He then goes on to outline further some of the work that people on the island are doing; indeed, the article gives cogent examples of the Afghan nurse and the paediatrician working at the Nauru hospital. It shows locals. It also looks at other works or other things that the refugees are doing on the island.
Australia is a country of migration and, since World War II, we have welcomed about 7.5 million migrants to this country, including about 850,000 under our humanitarian program. Today we are one of the most culturally diverse yet socially cohesive nations on earth. Our success as a migration country has been because we have had an ordered migration program. Order in migration and migration processes is vitally important. It is fundamental to the security and stability of any country; therefore, it is important that you do have strict rules on migration, about who comes in and out of your country. This is a fundamental issue.
Therefore, I come back to the point that I started my speech on—that is, yet again, we are seeing history repeating itself. Those opposite said before the 2007 election, 'No, no, we're going to stop the boats; we're going to turn boats back,' and then we saw their legacy—50,000 illegal people arriving, 8,000 children placed in detention and, tragically, all those deaths at sea. So by doing what they are doing, they are green lighting the people smugglers again. That girl in Nauru was telling me, 'Let's wait for the change,' because they've been told: as soon as the government changes, that is the green light for the people smugglers to be back in business and that's what the amendments of those opposite will do.
The crisis surrounding the health and wellbeing of asylum seekers on Nauru and PNG has gone on too long. The United Nations describes the situation as 'dire and untenable'. Doctors Without Borders describe the situation as 'beyond desperate'. We must heed those warnings. Twelve people have died in offshore detention since the regime began five years ago. There are possibly—it's not clear—1,224 people detained on Nauru and PNG and, according to the latest reports, 12 children, pregnant women and unaccompanied minors. The vast majority of these people have been found to be refugees. Many of them have been in these camps for at least five years. A coronial inquest into the death of Hamid Kehazaei, who died after being medevaced to Queensland from PNG in 2014, found his death from septicaemia was preventable and was due to failure to provide appropriate medical treatment and transfer to specialist care.
I also note the revelation from ABC's 7.30 of the existence of a government committee, the Transitory Persons Committee, a body comprised of senior public servants in the Department of Home Affairs. And, according to minutes of a meeting in August last year, one member of the committee noted that the department was coordinating to ensure the new contract with the international health and medical services to provide offshore health care does not mention 'Australian standard'. That would suggest that the department at least considered that care for asylum seekers need not meet Australian medical standards. This is just one argument for supporting the amendment I will put forward with Senator McKim.
According to authoritative reports, there have been two more suicide attempts in Manus in the last 48 hours, and there is little doubt that there will be more. We must act now. Our amendment will minimise this cruel and punitive regime. It will return decisions about the health of asylum seekers to those who should always have been making them in the first place: to relevant and independent doctors rather than public servants and politicians.
The amendment I propose establishes an independent health panel to review the available medical evidence in light of any refusal by the minister to authorise a transfer. In the interests of transparency, the amendment also requires the minister to table notifications in parliament of any transfer for medical or psychiatric reasons. To safeguard the review process, the amendment will add a provision for ministerial discretion to refuse the transfer on medical grounds in any case where the minister reasonably believes that the transfer of the person to Australia would compromise national security.
This is consistent with the perspective of Home Affairs whistleblower Shaun Hanns, a strong believer in border protection and boat turn-backs, that 'acts of kindness', as he has called them, have not led to more boats heading to Australia. He argued that it is demonstrated that the current boat turn-back policy alone is a sufficient deterrent. Nothing changed, for example, in 2014, when nearly half the people who had arrived in Australia between 2013 and 2014 were allowed to stay in the community. Nothing changed in 2016, when the resettlement deal with the US was announced. Hanns pointed out:
What matters to asylum seekers is not what eventually happened to people who got on a boat five years ago.
What matters is what happened to the last boat that made the attempt. And for the past five years that has been a prompt return …
to where it came from.
The approach we are proposing is also what the public wants. A YouGov Galaxy poll conducted by News Corp Sunday papers in October found that 79 per cent of voters want the government to transfer children and their families from Nauru. Removing asylum seekers from offshore detention was also identified by the member for Wentworth as one of the key reasons for her by-election victory. I would like to thank the member for Wentworth for working with me to bring this amendment before the parliament. It is proof, I believe, of the valuable role independents can play in our parliament. She has shouldered much of the burden of negotiating this amendment, ably supported by the excellent staff in her office.
I would also like to thank Labor, the Greens, Centre Alliance and the crossbench for their courtesy and consideration in this process. I recognise it is a difficult issue, and I applaud their courage in stepping up to support this initiative. I also acknowledge that, for a decade or more, the Greens have been at the forefront of efforts to bring offshore detention to an end. I thank Senator McKim for co-sponsoring the amendments and the motion required for this amendment to be considered. The time has come for all parliamentarians of goodwill to unite to bring an end to this crisis. Thank you.
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.
The Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2018 is deserving of the Senate's support. The amendments proposed by Senator Storer and the Greens do not deserve the support of the Senate. At the commencement of my remarks, can I foreshadow to the Senate that, on behalf of Senator Cormann, I will move that at the end of the motion we add:
"and that further consideration of this bill be deferred until after the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security has inquired and reported into all of the amendments circulated on this Bill by no later than 30 March 2019".
The ongoing updating of legislation to keep it relevant is vital, and that is what this bill seeks to do in relation to matters Home Affairs. As circumstances and technology change, so our legislative framework needs to keep up to date. The measures of this bill are clearly outlined in the explanatory memorandum and in the minister's second reading speech, the salient points of which are ensuring more workable arrangements for the removal of noncitizens, allowing correspondence to be forwarded online along with a few financial matters. What is of concern are the amendments that are being proposed, which would significantly weaken our border protection.
Fundamental to any nation-state is its capacity to control its borders. As Australians, we have a right to determine who comes to our country and the circumstances in which they come. If we can't, we have lost the right to call ourselves a sovereign nation. Australia's intake of non-Australians should be undertaken on the basis of clear and understandable guidelines. The first should be Australia's need for labour, particular skills and the capacity to provide a source of not domestically available labour.
Today, Australia is suffering from population stress when it comes to housing, infrastructure and jobs. That is why the Liberal government is correct in limiting the intake, which, at this time, is an issue on which Labor and the Greens are, it would appear, in a frozen policy zone—frozen because they have no policy of their own to offer the people of Australia, and they aren't able to bring themselves to fully embrace that which is common sense.
But, as a generous nation, we also have a refugee intake, which should also be tailored to deal with Australia's needs and capacity to integrate the refugees into Australia's society and culture. And, as a generous people, we should take people on the basis of need, not greed, on the basis of genuine refugee status, not on the capacity to pay criminal people smugglers. This is one of the few areas of social policy where it beats me as to why Labor and the Greens, but the Greens in particular, continue to assert that, if you've got the money to gatecrash Australia, you should be given precedence over those who don't have the money to gatecrash Australia. Where is the social justice in that? There is none whatsoever. That is completely devoid of social justice, and, might I add, completely devoid of compassion for those who do not have the financial resources. There is no doubt that Australia's generosity is being gamed. And what we have in relation to Nauru is a disgraceful attempt by the Greens, in particular, and some in the Labor Party to play the game of virtue-signalling whilst completely ignoring the very real and obvious consequences of doing so.
I listened to Senator Storer's contribution, and he talked about the crisis of health on Nauru. Well, the number of medical practitioners funded by the Australian taxpayer on Nauru would be the envy of most Australians, especially in regional areas of Australia. They are being exceptionally well serviced. Senator Storer referred to the 12 people who died in offshore detention. Strangely, he omitted the 100 times that number—1,200 people—who drowned at the hands of criminal people smugglers. But these figures, these matters, are just airbrushed out of the debate, out of the public discourse, so that people can continue their virtue-signalling.
Then we were told about those who had been there for five years. I have visited refugee camps where people have been there for 15 and 20 years. Where are the Australian doctors and others who seek to go there and do a psychoanalysis of the trauma occasioned to people being in those camps that are not air-conditioned, where often they don't get three square meals a day and where the medical support is exceptionally limited, if there is any at all? And somehow the people in Nauru are living in a hellhole? Excuse me: if it genuinely is a hellhole, does that mean we should repatriate every single person off Nauru? Of course not. In fact, the sorts of comments that emanate from the Australian Greens in relation to the lifestyle on their island are offensive to the Nauruan people—1,500 Nauruan-born children have the medical and health system that is there. It seems as though that's good enough for the Nauruans, but the enhanced medical support for the boat people, the illegal maritime arrivals, is somehow a hellhole. That is why I would invite those who use this language to genuinely consider what they're saying and the consequences of what they're saying. Is it able to withstand robust questioning? Is it able to withstand robust analysis? The simple fact is that every death is a matter of regret, but why one focuses on 12 in detention and airbrushes out 1,200 at sea—100 times the number—courtesy of criminal people smugglers is, I've got to say, a matter that I cannot quite equate. Then the question is: how many people die in the refugee camps? We don't even know, because we're not even interested. But of course that's somehow a sense of compassion.
Getting to the point of the Greens amendments, let's have a look at the medical evacuations that certain people are trying to manipulate when they gain Australia's generosity. This is a real case, and I invite the Greens and Senator Storer and others to listen in. Recently, international doctors on Nauru demanded an Iranian asylum seeker be medically evacuated to Australia because she was in so much pain. It cost $100,000 for the Australian taxpayer. The medical people thought, 'If there's so much pain, put her on a commercial flight.' But, no, Maurice Blackburn, that well-known Labor law firm got involved and sought a court order that she be transported by air ambulance. She was transported by air ambulance to Brisbane on 22 October and taken to a hospital. After a number of tests she was discharged, having been diagnosed with constipation—a medical emergency that required air ambulance! This is the gaming of Australian generosity in a completely unprincipled manner. Guess what? She found herself in Australia and she remains in Australia, and it is expected that a Federal Court injunction will be filed on her behalf. This is the gaming of the system. It is a real, live case—a real example. These are amendments being supported—possibly unwittingly, in relation to Senator Storer; I'll give him the benefit of the doubt—by the Greens, knowing that people are gaming the system in this horrendous way. I say to the Greens and to Senator Storer, because I've never had a discussion with him about this, that when I visited the refugee camps in western Thailand, the very first question I was asked as I arrived by one of the people who was able to speak English was: 'Why is it that Australia allows boat people to displace us, when we have such difficulty in being settled elsewhere in the world?'
I remember being in the electorate of Mallee, with a good member there, Mr Andrew Broad, speaking to the Korean people. A man there, who had come from the Korean people, was in tears, telling me that he was going to the airport to pick up his brother, who had finally been given refugee status in Australia, and they were going to be reunited. Earlier on that day, he had told me that he had been in Australia for four years and prior to that he had been in the refugee camp for 15 years. So I asked him whether he had arrived in the refugee camp at the same time, and the answer was yes. So I did the maths: here was a man who, for 19 years, was recognised as a refugee but was unable to be placed. Those refugees in Australia fully understand our border protection policy, because we allow people who have been waiting for 19 years to finally gain entry.
I say to Senator Storer and other well-meaning individuals in this place: be concerned about people who have no future for five years, but where is your heart for those who have been waiting nearly four times that period? If you had compassion for them, I might be able to understand what motivates. But, when you seek to champion the cause of the Iranian lady that I just referred to—costing the taxpayer $100,000 for a simple case of constipation—and then allowing her to make a Federal Court application to stay in Australia, that is gaming of the system that the Australian people don't want.
The Australian heart is generous. The Australian people want to support refugees, but they want to support those who are genuinely in need, not those who have never set a foot in a refugee camp and have bypassed refugee camp after refugee camp and safe asylum so that they can forum-shop with a pocket full of money that they've got and pay a people smuggler to advance their cause. My heart, my commitment, is more directed to those who don't have the money nor have the moral compass to engage criminals to support their cause. I believe that the bill is worthy of support.
Mr President, it was indicated to me that some people have different views on some of these amendments, which are (a), (b), (c) and (d), and I think it would help the chamber if they could be dealt with individually.
I have got a request from Senator Fifield. I need a name for a separate request; I've got that. So (a), (b), (c) and (d) will be dealt with separately. The question is that paragraph (a) of Senator Bernardi's second reading amendment on sheet 8621 be agreed to.
The question now is to adopt paragraph (b) of Senator Bernardi's second reading amendment on sheet 8621. All those of that opinion say aye. To the contrary no. The ayes have it. Division required? Ring the bell for four minutes. This will be the last four-minute bell rung.
Honourable senators interjecting—
Senator Di Natale, I've heard you use the term outside the chamber too. I am just trying to facilitate the operation of the chamber. Some people do not turn up for divisions of that nature, so we will have one four-minute bell and then every bell after this will be for one minute.
Honourable senators interjecting—
This is entirely consistent with the way I dealt with the income tax measures, where there were different views across the chamber. Senator Wong.
Yes. I've just announced that, as I announce this four-minute bell. The question is that paragraph (b) on Senator Bernardi's second reading amendment on sheet 8621 be agreed to. I remind senators that from this point forward division bells will be rung for one minute only, so don't leave.
I will now put that paragraph (d) of Senator Bernardi's second reading amendment be agreed to.
Senator Bernardi's amendment—
(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".
As I understand it—and I will allow the Clerk to correct me—my advice is that a motion to suspend the operation of the time-limited debate motion can be debated but no other motion can be debated. So you're seeking to suspend standing orders to allow you to move a foreshadowed second reading amendment?