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FOR – Bills — Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill 2024; Second Reading

Dan Tehan

What a sham this whole process is. This is a marathon—no, it's not a marathon; it's an ultramarathon in incompetence. It dates back to last May, and here we are today facing more and more incompetence. What a complete and utter mess.

Let's look at the process that we went through today. At 7.30 am, we had some legislation dropped off to us, and we were told that there would be a briefing at eight o'clock. That legislation, the Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill 2024, was ready, and it had a time and date on it: last Friday. Now, did the minister come to us and say, 'Okay, we want to give you this legislation so that you can look at it over the weekend and so that you can make sure there are no unintended consequences'? No, he did not. He sat on it over the weekend. He sat on it yesterday. Then he presented it to us today.

That is incompetence because, if it's not considered properly, if we can't look at the detail, if we can't make sure that there are no unintended consequences, this legislation might not do the job that the minister is hoping that it will do. That is why we have called on the government to have an inquiry in the Senate tonight. I hope that the government will support that enquiry. I hope that the crossbenchers will make sure that they support that enquiry. Although we only have limited time to look at this, we need that time to make sure we can interrogate this bill.

Let's look at the minister's track record when it comes to legislation going through this House and through this parliament. Let's look at his failure, on three key times, to turn up to legal briefings from his own department, which led us to the mess that we are in today. That in and of itself should be enough for the Prime Minister to have acted, but he hasn't. That's why we're sitting here today having to consider, debate and discuss a piece of legislation that we received at 7.30 am.

This piece of legislation was prepared and ready to go last Friday, yet the minister decided: 'Oh, no, I've got to be really careful. I don't want anything that I'm doing properly scrutinised or properly looked out, because it might show, once again, the errors of my ways.' That is the problem. When you have a minister in witness protection, a minister who can't even front up to the media today to say, 'We're going to be introducing this legislation. This is what it will do,' you end up getting mistake after mistake. That is why we want an inquiry tonight. We want that inquiry in the Senate so that at least we've got some time to be able to grill the department and see whether this legislation will do what it's set out to do and won't lead to unintended consequences.

What is one of our greatest fears when it comes to the botched and chaotic way that this legislation continues to be produced? You have to remember, I think this is the fourth or the fifth time that we've had rushed legislation put into this place. That is why we want it looked at. One of the serious unintended consequences that we are very, very concerned about is what this chaotic and botched approach is going to do to people smugglers. Our great fear—and, sadly, we saw this last Friday—is that we are going to see the people smugglers get their model going again. We really need to be able to drill down on this legislation to make sure that it's not providing that incentive. We've already seen boats arrive on the mainland and we saw, tragically, people drowning at sea last Friday. We have to be very conscious that this legislation and the way it's been drafted—the chaotic way the minister continues to do his job—doesn't provide perverse incentives for the boats to start up again, because no-one in this place wants to see that happening.

But, sadly, the way the government has approached this issue, dating back to the autumn of last year, has seen the people smugglers get their business model up and running again. That is our gravest concern when it comes to this legislation, and that is why we want to make sure we can get the department before a Senate hearing and grill them to make sure the chaotic and dysfunctional approach the government is taking won't lead to the type of unintended consequences that none of us want to see. When it comes to the way this government has handled immigration, the Australian people want the confidence that the government are getting something right, and so far they haven't been able to get anything right. The approach they're taking, the processes they're using, the botched and rushed way they're doing this gives the Australian people no confidence whatsoever that the immigration portfolio is being handled in a way that protects their safety.

I say to the minister and I say to the government: when your No. 1 priority is to keep the Australian community safe, they deserve better than what you're dishing up at the moment; they deserve much, much better. The fact that you would produce this legislation in the way and the form that you have shows that you have no idea what you are doing. What the Australian people want to see when it comes to their protection is a methodical approach, a considered approach, an approach where you go out and where you consult, an approach where, if you need bipartisanship, you just don't ram it down people's throats. That is what the Australian people are looking for when it comes to their safety.

Instead, the Australian people have now had, dating back to last autumn, error, mistake and buffoonery from the government the whole time, and they deserve better than that. So, I say to the minister: if you are going to get anything right and do something correctly in your portfolio, you need to make sure your government agrees to an inquiry tonight so that we have some time to consider this bill, some time to consult on this bill and then some time to interrogate your department on this bill. The sad reality is that we know that your track record of attending legal briefings is three-zip—three legal briefings, zero times attending those legal briefings. It is simply not good enough. We want to make sure you are doing your job, because there is no more important job than keeping the Australian community safe.

Kylea Tink

I'm rising to raise a number of concerns with the piece of legislation that has been put before the House, the Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill 2024. Had there been more time, I may have actually moved a second reading amendment on it. Given that time does not allow for that process, at this point in time I would like to make the following points.

Upon reviewing the piece of legislation that was provided to us this morning, I think there are a number of key weaknesses. The first of them is the breadth of the legislation. While it would appear that the immediate justification or impetus for this bill is the need to deal with the NZYQ affected cohort and, in particular, the pending litigation in the High Court examining whether people who are refusing to cooperate with their removal fall under the test for release put forward in NZYQ, the bill goes far beyond that by targeting anyone on a removal pathway. That includes unlawful noncitizens; those that are on a bridging removal pending visa, or BVR holders as they're called; those on a bridging general visa, a BVE holder; and, extraordinarily, any other noncitizens prescribed in the Migration Regulations, which would allow the minister to basically designate other cohorts to be added.

At a minimum, I think this bill should be revised to only apply to the NZYQ affected cohort, noting that the previous bills relating to the monitoring conditions and the preventative detention disorders, moved in this House in a very similar fashion, were limited to that cohort. There's a real risk under this legislation that people with whom Australia has non-refoulement obligations will be forced, through criminal sanctions, to cooperate in their removal to countries where they face persecution.

Section 119(4)(b) of subdivision E makes it clear that, even when someone is a person with respect to whom Australia has a non-refoulement obligation, that's not a reasonable excuse for non-compliance. What is the justification for including this provision, and what measures has or will the government take to ensure that people are not returned to countries where they'll face persecution?

The second point I'd like to make is that we know as a parliament and we know as a country that our asylum processes do not always get it right, particularly for those who have been subject to the fast-track procedures that we know were unfair. Where the process fails to accurately identify protection needs, applicants will be forced to cooperate in their removal to a country where they may face persecution.

The third point is that this act should concern us all when it comes to the welfare of children. Under this reformed legislation, parents and guardians will be forced, through the threat of criminal sanction, to take actions in aid of having their children removed from Australia. This violates the foundational principle under the international law in relation to the best interests of the child.

Ultimately, Australia is a signatory to the Refugee Convention. We are a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. By passing laws like this, we do our country and our citizenry a disservice.

Andrew Hastie

Here we are again. The government is trying to bind up a weeping sore with rushed, reflexive legislation in a portfolio that they do not control, and they are panicked. You can sense the panic across the table. Fundamentally, this is about leadership, or rather the absence of leadership—which is really just another way of saying 'bad leadership'. We have a hapless minister for immigration presiding over a debacle running since the middle of last year in his portfolio, and time and time again we see this minister unable to impose himself on the situation.

Governing a country requires dynamic, responsive leadership not just at the top but across all portfolios, and we're not seeing that at all in the immigration portfolio. Sadly, what we see instead is a flat-footed, confused, panicked minister and this bill, the Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill 2024, briefed to the coalition at 7.30 am for just 20 minutes. That happened this morning, and the Australian people deserve better than this. They expect us to be transparent and accountable when we pass bills of this consequence. This government has been floundering since the middle of last year. They have been unable to anticipate events as they unfold, with grave consequences for the Australian community.

The handling of the NZYQ case was a case study in failed government. This government has had from the middle of last year, when the High Court had a directions hearing on NZYQ, and it was plain to see then that there would be issues with this case and others like it. Yet did the minister act? No, he did nothing—no legislation, no prudential action to protect the Australian community. At every turn it's been up to the opposition to lead the government. It was the member for Wannon, Senator Paterson in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition leading and guiding the government on legislative responses to the case at hand. The opposition has been leading. It's been the tail wagging the dog, which is frankly not good enough from this government.

Even then, the government failed to act. We saw 149 criminals, murderers, sex offenders and paedophiles, among others, released into the Australian community—you can't make this up. It's shameful. Now we see the government flapping in anticipation of the High Court ruling in ASF17, the case of an Iranian man who has refused to cooperate with authorities in Australia and been found not to be owed protection. If he is successful in his case, it could have implications for hundreds more people currently in immigration detention in this country who would be released into the community on the basis that their detention is indefinite because they refused to cooperate with Australia's efforts to deport them.

So here we are—new legislation, briefed this morning at 7.30 am for only 20 minutes, rushed. I'm confident the crossbench hasn't had a briefing. It's right that we call for a Senate inquiry immediately into this bill. You've got the Greens and their affiliates on the crossbench firing their cannons, and they have a point; there's been no due process and no Senate inquiry. But we part company there with the crossbench, because we believe in strong borders on this side of the House. It was the coalition who stopped the boats after the debacle of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years. And now Labor, since coming to power, are weakening our borders. That weakness is provocative, and we see that because we've seen 12 or 13 boats arrive on Australian shores since May 2022.

This bill gives the minister significant powers to direct cooperation of noncitizens in their removal from this country. There's power in this bill, but this bill can't substitute for strong prudent government and leadership from the Albanese government. This minister is weak; he's unable to impose himself on the situation, and he is now seeking to slam rushed legislation through both houses without an inquiry. It's not good enough, and the Australian people deserve better. They deserve transparency and accountability. The side of the House is calling for a Senate inquiry immediately because we all deserve better from this government.

Long debate text truncated.

Summary

Date and time: 1:39 PM on 2024-03-26
Allegra Spender's vote: Aye
Total number of "aye" votes: 12
Total number of "no" votes: 39
Total number of abstentions: 99
Related bill: Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill 2024

Adapted from information made available by theyvoteforyou.org.au

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