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Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Page: 12352

Mr HAYES (Fowler) (18:28): I too support the Deterring People Smuggling Bill 2011, and I know the urgency that underpins this matter. I welcome the support of those opposite. My support is obviously committed to the bill, but I will put it in a more personal sense. As you are aware, Mr Deputy Speaker, I have the honour of representing the most multicultural electorate in the country. Many of the people who came to my electorate from overseas came here in 1975 after the fall of Saigon. They came by boat, so they were boat people. One of the things I do know from talking to them is the number of people they lost at sea. The issue of deterring people smugglers from plying their trade in boats to this country boats is well understood in my electorate.

After the fall of Saigon in 1975, the Vietnamese came to Australia. After the massacres that occurred in Cambodia in 1989 under the regime of Pol Pot we saw another wave of refugees trying to get to Australia. I have attended many Vietnamese functions where they pray to the Virgin Mary. They adopted her as a patron saint because so many people were lost at sea.

I have talked to the Australian Federal Police, the minister and border control people and they say it is estimated that in excess of five per cent of those who travel with people smugglers in these leaky vessels, mainly exiting Indonesia, perish at sea. Both the minister and the shadow minister referred to the tragic disaster that occurred on Christmas Island last December. Tragically, somewhere in the vicinity of 30 men, women and children were lost. Ten years ago 353 people were killed in a dreadful occurrence on Ashmore Reef. It is suspected that more recently another vessel was lost at sea off the coast of Indonesia, which occasioned further loss of life.

When we talk about people-smuggling, we are not talking about some effort to help people venture to another country with a view to have them claim asylum. We are talking about people who take money to ply their trade in simply transporting people. At the moment every boat that leaves Indonesia represents $1 million profit, whether or not it gets to Australian shores. For people smugglers, that is their profit after they have taken out the resources they have committed to the vessel and to organising the trip. People are so desperate that they go to people such as these, smugglers who are so ready and so hungry to take their money. The smugglers do not care all that much whether or not that vessel gets here. They give someone a compass, tell them where to go and, as a matter of fact, they even predial the mobile phone for them so they know that when they have gone a certain distance they can ring and, if things go right for them, they will get picked up. That is the level of care of the people involved in people-smuggling.

I am glad Minister McClelland is sitting at the table. I have nothing but the praise for the Australian Federal Police. I have spent time with them in Indonesia. I have seen what they are doing to combat the challenge of people-smuggling and the efforts they are putting in with the Indonesian National Police and the policing authorities over there. There are almost 17,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago where people can set sail for Australia. That requires a lot of effort in detection and investigation and the Australian Federal Police are doing very good work with the Indonesian National Police in that respect. I also commend the Indonesian government for the various changes they have made to their domestic laws in people-smuggling and the efforts they are putting in to eradicate this illicit activity from their shores.

As the minister indicated, this Deterring People Smuggling Bill 2011 amends the Migration Act 1958 to clarify the words 'no lawful right to come to Australia' in the people-smuggling offences in subdivision A of division 12 in part 2. This is a clarification. It puts beyond any doubt what the intention is and the understanding that underpins those words in the act. This is probably simply saying all the various things that most people out there in the community genuinely believe. We know that people-smuggling is a vile activity. We know these are people who are prepared to place the lives of innocent men, women and children at the mercy of the seas simply to make a fast buck. This is a heinous crime and there are people out there who are doing everything in their power to take advantage of that, taking advantage of the desperation of those who see no other way of moving about.

Unless they have a visa, this bill will make it an offence to transport people to this country. This puts beyond doubt what I am sure the average person in the street thinks is very much the law as it stands. The bill will make clear the words 'no lawful right to come to Australia' refer to requirements under Australia's domestic law and not to any obligation under international law which may claim to exist. The bill also makes it clear that this requirement applies whether or not the person travels into Australia's migration zone as part of a people-smuggling venture.

The bill is intended to have retrospective application from the commencement of people-smuggling offences in 1999 and will ensure that the validity of past, present and future people-smuggling convictions stand. On behalf of the people I represent in my electorate, many of whom are refugees, many of whom came to this country on boats and many of whom lost relatives and friends in all those ventures, I welcome this bill in putting an end to the people-smuggling trade. It is something we have a vested interest in, not only to protect our shores but also to do the right thing for humanity. I commend the bill to the House.