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Monday, 30 May 2011
Page: 5062


Mr RANDALL (Canning) (17:59): I am very pleased to speak on the Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test and Other Provisions) Bill 2011. We would not be here today if there were not so many people arriving unlawfully. To use the Orwellian language of the Labor Party, they are irregular unauthorised boat arrivals—in other words, people who have jumped the queue. Let us put that in context. When the Rudd government came to power in 2007 there were only four people in detention who had arrived by boat. Now we are heading towards 7,000 in detention. What has caused this? As my friend and colleague from the seat of Forrest mentioned, it is because the green light has been turned on by the Labor Party's changes to the Migration Act, which have sent a signal that if you can get to the Australian mainland you will get a visa. We know that is pretty much the case because, as an example that I have cited in this place before, roughly 20 per cent of those who apply from Afghanistan have a migration outcome, whereas those Afghans who arrive here by boat have a far higher migration outcome, and very few of them have been returned.

We can go into the figures, and I am sure my colleagues have done the same, about the shambolic state of the migration system under the Gillard-Brown government. The immigration system in this country was the envy of the world. It was seen as one that had great integrity. In fact, when I have had the opportunity to go to other countries in the world—for example, when I visited detention centres in Italy—I have found that they saw our system under the Howard government as having the highest integrity and the best outcomes for those arriving unlawfully.

The system has become so chaotic that there is much violence in the detention centres. Let us remember what happened before this government took over in 2007. When we were building the detention centre on Christmas Island the then opposition spokesperson and now Prime Minister said, 'We won't need Christmas Island because there won't be anyone to put into it.' It was going to have a capacity of only 800. What happened? They changed the policy and turned the green light on. Now not only are there more than 800; there are, as we know, well over 2,000, with overcrowding causing many problems. In opposition they said they would not bring asylum seekers onto the mainland for processing, but Christmas Island is so full and has so many problems, asylum seekers have had to be brought to the mainland.

The government is now fishing around in Asia for any place it can to find a solution—except Nauru, even though there is a facility there that was built by Australian tax dollars. The government will not use Nauru on the basis that Nauru is not a signatory to the UN convention, yet it is doing it with Malaysia. Suddenly, we find out that Thailand might be the go or that New Guinea might be reopened. Is Kiribati going to be the next stop? Tuvalu? Some other Pacific Island? It is: tick-tack-toe, here we go; let's find a place we can put you. That is what is happening at the moment because the government is so out of control with migration arrivals and the processing of people. It is causing overcrowding and resentment, and we are becoming the laughing stock of the world. If I have time, I will tell members about a personal incident in Western Australia which shows how derisively we are being considered.

Isn't it right that we invite people to come here who will add something to our community—skilled migrants, people reuniting with family and those on the humanitarian visas which we were famous for. There were about 14,000 of those a year, which were generally allocated to us by the UNHCR in countries where people had been waiting in an orderly fashion, applying through the camps and the post. But that is not the case anymore. We find now that if you arrive here you generally get a visa outcome.

Christmas Island was part of the exclusion zone for migration purposes and so was an ideal centre for processing. Those that have come to Australia have gradually filtered through some of the nefarious behaviour that they were involved in before they reached here and since they have arrived. I have produced evidence in this place previously that some Sri Lankans who, once they had obtained their visa, returned to Sri Lanka within 12 months of getting their visa. So much for fleeing persecution and fearing for your life.

It was reported in the Australian not so long ago that 70 per cent of entrants who arrive and get a humanitarian visa return to their country of origin within 12 months. Canada has realised this and is about to reassess the humanitarian visas it has granted, based on the honesty and integrity of the applicants' information, with a view to removing their visas or citizenship. Australia might want to look at this, because we are being taken for a ride—we are being conned—by a number of these people. I will point to some of these cases shortly. If the Canadians are doing it because people have been laughing in their face, why wouldn't Australia? We know why we wouldn't—because this government is being led by the nose by the Greens. It is not going to do anything unless Bob Brown gives the okay. As we know, Bob would open the gates and let the millions into this country if he could. He would not care about the economic circumstances or about Australian society and culture as we know it; he would just open the doors without any thought about what he was going to do. The character test is very important because we want to not only maintain the integrity of our migration system but also add something to the Australian community for those coming here. Those people who have fled through a number of other countries hold up somewhere in either Malaysia or Indonesia for some time until they can find a people smuggler who can get them a better outcome. Let us think about the case of the Sri Lankans who were held up at the Port of Merak with that marvellous guy, Alex, as their spokesperson. He had a criminal record in Canada and he said, 'Why don't you treat us better?' Surprisingly, Alex sniffed the wind and realised that he had better scarper because out of all the ones who were relocated to Australia he just vanished into thin air.

Why would the minister bring this legislation to the House when he can do something about it now? He has ministerial discretion to look at the character of individuals on a case-by-case basis and say, 'This person is not a fit and proper person, given the evidence to me from the department, the police or Interpol.' Any one of those agencies would be in a position to state, 'This person is of dubious character.' He can do that now, but he does not seem to have the courage. The previous minister who I consider a colleague from Western Australia, Senator Chris Evans, had the opportunity and he did not want to do it either, which surprised me because it is well within the minister's remit to do so. I do not know why they do not because it would prevent a massive legal challenge, which I have mentioned previously about previous legislation.

Let us have a look at the reasons we are now being brought to this place. There were the Christmas Island riots in November 2009. It was a massive brawl involving 150 people. Some guards suffered minor injuries after breaking up the fight. They used pool cues, broom handles and branches et cetera. Eleven people were charged, but eight had their charges dismissed—amazing. Three were charged and two of them ended up on good behaviour bonds. That is not bad for wrecking a joint. Only one was charged so he must have been the only one who wrecked the joint. He was the only one who ended up with any sort of sanction or penalty. All three were granted visas in late 2010. These marvellous people are going to bring this sort of violent behaviour to Australia. This sends a dangerous message.

There were riots on Christmas Island again in 2011. Unrest was noted on the last weekend of February when 13 people were injured and three asylum seekers were arrested after a fight broke out over property damage. On 11 March there was the first break-out from the detention centre when 150 asylum seekers damaged the gates and fences. Initially, 100 refused to return to the centre. Christmas Island residents said that the extent of the break-out was under-reported, and many islanders feared for their safety and barricaded themselves in their homes on that idyllic island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

A second break-out occurred days later from the North West Point Immigration Detention Centre, supposedly the island's most secure facility. Fewer than 100 men broke free and roamed the island. It took Federal Police over a week to locate all those who escaped. Prime Minister Gillard made a comment at the time: 'Where are they going to go to? They are on an island, after all.' This was much to the bemusement and frustration all those who call Christmas Island home. On 17 March up to 250 asylum seekers set buildings ablaze and threw Molotov cocktails at the Federal Police. Over 200 Federal Police were taken to the island to secure the facility. Police were forced into using beanbag bullets and tear gas to gain control.

We all remember the pictures of people dragging wheelie bins that were alight and running from building to building to make sure that they were properly alight. This is what they did to Australian facilities. Were they of good character when they burned down the places they ran to for refuge so they could migrate to Australia? Minister Bowen denied it and said that some sorts of ringleaders were sent to the mainland, and some of them were later implicated in the Villawood riot.

I could go on about the Villawood riot. I can tell you that nothing galled the people of Australia more than to see what they did to Villawood when they burned down those nine buildings, including the kitchen and all those facilities. Then they got on the roof and would not come down. Around Anzac Day in my electorate people were saying to me: 'Mr Randall, I will get them down for you. Just give me the opportunity and I will show you how to get them down.' They were appalled by the fact that we were such a weak, lily-livered group of people who allowed ourselves to be held hostage by people who decided to come here seeking refuge and trashing it along the way. It was an absolute disgrace.

We could go on with a whole lot of other incidents. For example, guards have been bashed at Curtin. The West Australian reported on 23 March that an Iranian detainee had claimed that he had been raped by several men at the Phosphate Hill camp at Christmas Island but that no charges were laid. Coincidentally, a guy has told me that he supplies 700 condoms a week to Curtin, which is surprising given the strong male population there. Obviously there are some cultural issues that seem to be festering. There were also scuffles at Darwin airport.

We could go on. There was the boat carrying 47 asylum seekers which was sabotaged by the crew when they threw 30 litres of petrol on the deck below. Our Navy got involved and of the five people identified, I understand that three of them have visas already. This is shameful. It is a disgrace that Australia allows this to go on. There is one clear way you could deal with this, obviously—that is, to make sure that people do not arrive by boat but arrive in an orderly fashion and apply as humanitarian entrants, rather than trying to jump the queue. Constituents come to me one after the other to say: 'Mr Randall, we love migration; we were all built on migration. This country is a migrant society. But what we don't like is when you get in a queue at the shopping centre and someone decides to push past you at the checkout because they are in a hurry. Or when somebody at the footy wants to get a better seat and he shoulders past everybody else to get the front of queue and says, "I don't care who you are because I am big and ugly enough to push you out of the way".' That is what they do not like about the shambolic state of our migration system. We must maintain proper character assessments so that we end up with and maintain a system that is full of integrity. The minister is doing this because he will not do his own job. He could do this job himself, without requiring this legislation, but this is just an indication of how out of control and how messy this government is. Everything this government has touched so far is turning to mud. This is just another prime example. Our migration system, which was held as one of the beacons of the world on how to do this, has now been reduced to the state that it is in.