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Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Page: 5310

Mr BOWEN (McMahonMinister for Immigration and Citizenship) (17:21): I do not intend to detain the House for long, because this is clearly a stunt from the opposition. As I said last night, the opposition's position on the Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test and Other Provisions) Bill is that it does not go far enough and it is not necessary. The shadow minister has been saying for weeks, 'We don't need to do this, it is completely unnecessary,' and then he came out last night and said, 'It's not going far enough.'

The shadow minister in his contribution has retrospectively fitted his amendment to his rhetoric. In his second reading contribution yesterday, he said that this amendment was necessary because if somebody who was in Australia on a visa commits an offence—and he used the example of Northies or down at the club; I think he used the example of the Coogee Bay Hotel—the Australian people deserve to know that if they are convicted of an offence they could then be deported. What he did not outline to the House were the implications for people who are applicants for visas. I suspect he did not even realise that was the import of his amendment.

Mr Morrison: I just addressed it.

Mr BOWEN: He is addressing it now, but he did not address it last night. He explained to the House last night the import of his amendment, and he was talking about the implications of this amendment for people in Australia on a temporary or a permanent basis. At no stage did he say to the House that this would have any impact on tourist applications or 457 applications or any other applications. I pointed that out to the House last night and now the shadow minister has gone back to his office and retrofitted his rhetoric to fit his amendment. He probably got his legal advice from George Brandis again—and you always get into trouble when you do that. You really need to get a better lawyer.

The member for Cook should show us the problem he is trying to fix. Which tourist committed an offence in another country and then came to Australia and caused trouble in Australia, which is covered by this legislation? Which 457 visa holder was it? Which case is the shadow minister pointing to to justify this amendment? Very clearly the opposition and the government agree that the character test was not strong enough for people in detention. People in detention can impact on government property and can impact on the wellbeing of Commonwealth employees and employees working on behalf of the Commonwealth, not to mention other detainees. They are very serious issues.

There have been a number of instances under governments of this persuasion and under governments of that persuasion where people in detention have committed offences with a penalty of less than 12 months and the government has not been able to exercise the character power. It happened under Mr Ruddock, it happened under Mr Evans and it has happened under me. I have recommended to the House that that situation be changed, and the House endorsed it last night. The member for Cook found himself in a bit of a political situation where he thought he could not just back the government, so he was going to have to look tougher: 'What I do best is beating my chest, so how am I going to beat my chest if I just go in and support the government's legislation? I know what I'll do—I'll cook up an amendment; I'll bring in issues about tourists and 457 visas and all sorts of other things.

The member for Cook used the term 'red herring'—if the member for Cook looks in the mirror he will see a red herring in relation to this amendment. It is a stunt and a farce and I would invite the honourable member to call a division. If he really believes this is important, there are plenty of members in the House and he should call a division on this amendment—bring it on, let us have a division and see if every member of the opposition lines up behind the member for Cook. Let us see if every single member of the opposition supports him.

Mr Morrison: The Independents don't support it.

Mr BOWEN: That has not stopped the member for Cook calling divisions before. We know the Independents do not support him; what we also know is that he is unlikely to get the support of the Liberal party room for this amendment. That is why he is running from this division. If he has nothing to hide, he should call a division. If he is hiding divisions in his party room, then he should not call for a division. I suspect we know the answer—he will not call a division because he cannot rely on the support of every Liberal party room member. We know that the Liberal Party is divided on many issues, and they are divided on this issue because there are several members opposite who think this amendment is a joke—as it is.