Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. The member for Flynn, Ken O'Dowd, the member for New England, Barnaby Joyce, and the member for Indi, Dr Helen Haines, have all called on the government to use ministerial discretion and allow Priya, Nades and their two children to return to their home in the rural Queensland community of Biloela. Why is the Prime Minister ignoring the pleas of rural members of parliament? Are Mr O'Dowd, Mr Joyce and Dr Haines wrong?
I refer the honourable senator to a statement made by the Deputy Prime Minister in 2013, and that is that no-one who arrives in Australia by boat without a visa will be permanently settled in Australia.
So here we go. We are committed to protecting the integrity of our borders, and we are committed to protecting vulnerable people from being again submitted to the vile trade of the people smugglers. We are not doing anything other than applying the law and acting consistently with what governments of both persuasions have said in the past—because the Deputy Prime Minister who, in 2013, said that no-one who comes to Australia by boat without a visa would be settled in Australia was none other than the current Leader of the Opposition, Mr Anthony Albanese. In fact, the Labor Party in 2013 was running adverts—which were supposedly targeting people smugglers but were being run in Australia in the lead-up to the 2013 election—making the point that no-one who arrived in Australia by boat without a visa would be permanently settled in Australia. That was the right judgement at the time, that remains the right judgement now and that is the judgement that the Prime Minister and this government will stick to.
Radio broadcaster Alan Jones from rural Queensland said that the Biloela family are 'good, hardworking people contributing to a regional community' and 'should not be deported'. Mr Jones also said: 'I have written to the Prime Minister. There's been no response.' Is Mr Jones wrong? Will the Prime Minister respond to Mr Jones?
I am confident that the Prime Minister regularly corresponds with and talks to Mr Jones. But, leaving that to one side, the case that the honourable senator is referencing has been comprehensively reviewed—not just by the government but by several courts—ever since they arrived here, without a visa, by boat, illegally, in 2012, and they've been found not to be valid refugees. They've been found not to be asylum seekers. In fact, every court up to the High Court—
With all due respect, Senator Watt, it is entirely in order for the minister to respond to some of the quotations used too. In my notes of the question, the minister is being directly relevant to the other assertions made in the question, and you've reminded him of the third part of the question.
The Prime Minister and our government will continue to uphold the law because to do otherwise would put the people smugglers back into it business. It would again give them a product to sell and would again put vulnerable people at risk. Of course, the last time Labor went weak at the knees, 1,200 people died at sea.
Biloela local Angela Fredericks is in Canberra today and is present in the gallery. She is here to present a petition of more than a quarter of a million signatures from Australians who call on the minister to use his discretion and help this rural community reunite with Nades, Priya and their two beautiful girls. Will the Prime Minister meet with Ms Fredericks and listen to her rural community?
Firstly, these decisions are made in accordance with the law and focus on Australia's national interests. That is how we will continue to make these judgements. The Prime Minister has been very clear that the Australian government has made a judgement that was confirmed by the courts, again and again, all the way up to the High Court, since 2012. In relation to the other part of the question, I will take it on notice.