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Thursday, 18 August 2005
Page: 84

Mr BURKE (3:07 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, representing the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. I refer to the comments by Senator Vanstone that when people who have every right to be in Australia are detained ‘these people are not necessarily wrongfully detained’. Minister, hasn’t even the immigration department itself, in response to questions on notice in May this year, been using the term ‘wrongful detention’ in these precise cases? Minister, is it wrong to lock up someone who has every right to be in Australia or not?

Mr JOHN COBB (Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs) —My thanks to the honourable member for his question. Obviously, it would never be appropriate to lock up somebody for any length of time illegally. The circumstance to which the honourable member refers is the fact that, out of the 88,000 detainees that were taken in in Australia over the time, 201 were found to have perhaps been wrongfully detained. It is also a fact that many of those 201 were actually people who declined to give reasons for their being in such a situation. Also, quite a number of them refused to give their identities.

Ms Gillard —So it was their fault?

Mr JOHN COBB —I might add that this is hardly news. It was a question that was answered by my colleague three months ago.

Ms Gillard —It’s old news—you do it all the time.

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Lalor!

Mr JOHN COBB —Of the 88,000 people who were detected as being in Australia illegally, around 75 per cent were given bridging visas and about 25 per cent entered detention. The 201 cases the member refers to have been referred to the ombudsman to look at. We have no intention of allowing 88,000 people to be illegally in Australia simply on the off-chance that the odd mistake might be made. I think what the—

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order!

Mr JOHN COBB —The member for Watson is obviously suggesting that the police should never arrest anyone unless they know there is going to be a conviction at the end of the day.