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Thursday, 14 February 2002
Page: 368

Senator COONEY (6:35 PM) —I will make a few remarks on the matters taken up by Senator Bartlett, who has done outstanding work in this area. I take this opportunity to acknowledge that in this area of migration Senator Bartlett has done great work. As I listened to Senator Bartlett and as I consider the problems that have been occurring in the department of immigration—that is not its proper title, but that is the title I would like to give it for the purposes of this exercise—I believe that problems have arisen which could well be resolved if the regulatory aspect of the department were hived off somewhere else. The department has a facilitative function, and it does magnificent work in that area—bringing people to Australia, making sure they are settled, giving them the opportunity to learn English and all the other such services they provide. The department does magnificent work in that area, but that work is infected, I think, by its regulatory function, which leads to the situation of the camps at Woomera, Port Hedland, Curtin and so on.

If the regulatory function of this department were taken away from it—I suggest that it be given to Attorney-General's, but I am not fixed on that—and given to some other department, then I think the culture within the department would be much improved, the department being left with only its facilitative function. That is something I would like to put on the record now.

People smuggling, which has a lot to do with migration and with the asylum seekers, is dealt with by the Federal Police and like authorities. The Federal Police is a body that comes under the Attorney-General's jurisdiction. My opinion is that we should not continue with these camps. You have been there yourself, Mr Acting Deputy President Ferguson, and you have your own thoughts about the camps, but in my view those camps are beyond the pale. They are certainly beyond the pale insofar as they are presently under the jurisdiction of the department of immigration. They should not be. My own view is that the camps should be, in large part, closed, but if we are going to have them, let us have them under the jurisdiction of a department that can properly look after them. I would have thought that would be the Attorney-General's Department. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.