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Thursday, 19 March 2015
Page: 1930


Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (12:39): The Australian Greens oppose schedule 1 in the following terms:

(1) Schedule 1, item 2, page 5 (lines 3 to 12), to be opposed.

(3) Schedule 1, items 4 to 10, page 5 (line 18) to page 6 (line 22), to be opposed.

(4) Schedule 1, item 11, page 6 (line 25) to page 7 (line 14), section 91WA to be opposed.

(5) Schedule 1, items 12 and 13 (lines 28 to 32), to be opposed.

These amendments also follow another one, which will have to be tested separately. Together, these amendments remove the elements that this bill deals with in terms of bogus documents. I understand on face value the argument that people who do not have their right documents should not be given the benefit of the doubt. I understand on face value why that seems like a very reasonable argument.

But what that argument does is dismiss the realities of the circumstances people are in when they flee persecution. Often, people have to be smuggled out of their countries in order to keep them safe and to get them across the border. If you were a government official in the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein, for example, and you started to raise concerns with what was going on, perhaps speaking to the media or speaking to officials outside Iraq about the acts things the Saddam Hussein government was committing, it would be very difficult for you to leave that country with your own identity and your passport stamped, knowing that the government is watching your every step. That is the reality of people who are fleeing for genuine protection reasons.

Unfortunately, it does create complexities for a country like Australia when people do arrive on our doorstep. It does mean that is difficult to find out exactly who people are. It does mean that we need to do a little bit more digging and a bit more research. It does mean that sometimes we have to give people the benefit of the doubt. I must say, I would prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt than to say no to giving somebody protection because we simply do not want to understand the realities of why that person had to come here with a fake passport.

I remember being in high school and reading stories and watching films about the heroic decisions to flee Nazi Germany or occupied France. Many hundreds and thousands of Jews were smuggled out of those countries on false identity documents. It is how they did it safely. I am not saying that these people should not be questioned and I am not saying that we should not look at the details of their identity documents; what I am saying, however, is that we should not just put a cross next to their application because a document in the first instance does not look genuine or, indeed, is not genuine because they have had to use it in order to flee atrocities and to flee safely. It is often getting out of your country that is the hardest thing to do in the first place: being undetected, without being caught and often having to lie to your family about where you are going and the journey you are going to take.

I tell you what, if I had to leave my country because my government was targeting me or my family and I had to use a fake passport to do it, I would. I would assume that every other one of us in this room, if it was about life or death and saving our children, if it meant having to take a fake passport to get out before you are caught, before you are in jail, before you disappeared and before there was bullet put in your head, then you would.

I move the amendments as outlined.