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Monday, 21 March 2011
Page: 2431

Mr KEENAN (3:01 PM) —Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to the Prime Minister’s statement on Sunday 13 March in response to the break-out of detainees on Christmas Island that ‘this is a situation which is well in hand’. Within 24 hours of this statement, a series of rolling riots broke out, tear gas and beanbag rounds of fire were used, the facility was set on fire, staff had to be rescued and the Federal Police had to retake the facility by force. Can the Prime Minister guarantee that no asylum seeker that has damaged Commonwealth property or obstructed Commonwealth officers in these riots will be granted a visa?

Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for his question, and I am glad to see that he has replaced the former shadow spokesperson on this issue. On the question that he has asked me about Christmas Island, what I can say to the shadow minister for immigration is as follows. First and foremost, criminal charges can be laid by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions following a police investigation into these incidents. This kind of violence and destruction is wrong. It is criminal behaviour and, just as we would expect in any other part of the nation, if someone has engaged in criminal behaviour, then the police investigate and charges can follow a proper investigation process.

Under the Migration Act, as the member is probably aware, character is an important consideration in determining whether or not someone should be granted a visa. The minister for immigration has said that this will be considered on a case-by-case basis. As is proper, the Migration Act requires him to consider cases one at a time and to have his decisions turn on the facts of an individual case. But, as the minister has said, as these matters are considered on a case-by-case basis, character considerations will be taken into account for those on Christmas Island who have organised and perpetrated this sort of activity.

I say generally to the member and to the House what I have said publicly and am happy to repeat here: this kind of conduct by individuals on Christmas Island is grossly wrong. This kind of conduct can and should cause criminal charges to flow following a proper police investigation. We know from our ordinary understanding of the law that acts of violence and acts of destruction are criminal acts. This kind of violence and conduct can and will be taken into account under the proper procedures of the Migration Act. What I would say to the member is that, as I have said publicly, no-one who engages in this kind of conduct will profit from it. No-one who does it will profit from it. The minister for immigration has made that absolutely clear, and I am very happy to restate it in this place.

Mr ABBOTT —Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question to the Prime Minister. Will she guarantee that the asylum seekers who have been engaging in this behaviour will never get a visa to this country?

Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) —The Leader of the Opposition is effectively asking me to do something not in accordance with the law and the Migration Act, and I will not do it.

Mr Dutton interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Dickson will remove himself from the chamber for one hour under standing order 94(a).

The member for Dickson then left the chamber.

Ms GILLARD —The laws of this country actually apply to everyone. That is what happens when you live in a democracy. The member for Dickson might want to study that in his time outside the chamber. The laws of this country apply to everyone. The Migration Act is the law of this country. It requires the minister for immigration to deal with cases on a case-by-case basis. It requires the minister for immigration to look at the facts of each case. But, as the minister for immigration has said publicly and as I have just said in this parliament, in considering questions of character, the conduct engaged in by the individual can certainly be taken into account.

What the Leader of the Opposition is inviting me to do is not in accordance with the Migration Act. It is actually not in the best interests of holding to account the people who have engaged in this conduct. It could arguably give them some legal grounds to contest the decisions that the minister may or may not later make in relation to their visas. So, rather than engage in that kind of silly shenanigan in this parliament, we will continue to go through the process. The police will do a proper investigation; charges may be laid from that investigation; and the minister for immigration will consider visas case by case—as he is required to do by the law—taking into account questions of character. The kind of bad conduct we have seen on Christmas Island can be taken into account in that character determination.