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Wednesday, 24 August 1983
Page: 235


Mr WEST (Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs)(10.48) —We will not accept your amendment. Once again, I draw your attention to the fact that your Migration Act, not mine, has been lying around for 25 years and you have left section 14 of the Act the way it has been for 25 years; that is, a Minister has absolute discretion to decide the nature of the conduct on which a person can be deported from Australia. Nothing has been done at all to tidy up the generalised section 14 (2) which simply talks about treachery, seditious words and all of the nonsense which you have just reiterated. That is what you have left in the Act for 25 years.


The CHAIRMAN —Order! The Minister will resume his seat. In the early stage of this debate I remind the Committee that it is necessary to direct remarks through the Chair rather than to have a personal debate between the leader of the one side and the leader on the other. That has occurred frequently. I call the Minister.


Mr WEST —Thank you, Mr Chairman. I will be guided by your remarks. The proposed amendment of the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) is, in our view, riddled with inequalities and inconsistencies when one looks at the policy and philosophy as we put it forward in the Migration Act. His proposal starts with a conviction for what the honourable member terms loosely as trafficking in dangerous drugs. It then goes on to cover conviction and imprisonment for not less than five years. Honourable members will recall that on 4 May 1983 I made a statement to the House relating to the Government's criminal deportation policy. Convictions for drug trafficking are certainly a major factor for me to consider when deciding whether I should exercise my power to deport a convicted non- citizen. I do not believe that Parliament should legislate to create a separate class of offenders, apart from security matters, who are subject to different considerations. As I said previously and now repeat, non-citizens, wherever they come from, should be able to settle in this country of their choice without fear of deportation after 10 years' lawful permanent residence in Australia. To deny this specific statutory period of liability to a particular class of offenders, apart from the security matters, is to introduce inequality of treatment amongst non-citizens.

The next point which I think ought to be made is that it is totally inappropriate to introduce this type of amendment as moved by the honourable member for Denison into the scope of proposed new section 14 which deals only with security matters. How many times do I have to repeat that to the Committee? The Opposition's amendment is sloppy; it could not even draft the amendment to the appropriate section of the Act-proposed new section 12 dealing with criminal departations. Why did the honourable member not go to that? Proposed new section 14 deals with conduct and conviction with respect to security matters and with an appeal system.


Mr Hodgman —After 10 years.


Mr WEST —Yes. Quite frankly, if the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation cannot decide within 10 years of a person arriving in Australia whether that person is a spy or will be treacherous or seditious, and if 10 years is not long enough for it to compile its secret reports, it is more incompetent than even I thought it was. Certainly there has to be a time after which we are responsible for people, no matter how bad they are, because we cannot be a greater migration country and have it both ways. That is the position as I see it and, unfortunately for the Opposition, we have the numbers here. At any rate, we will not introduce into proposed new section 14, which deals only with security matters, any other matter dealing with conduct or conviction under a specific provision of the Crimes Act.

While I am on this point I would refer to earlier suggestions relating to conviction under some other provisions of the Crimes Act which are not identified in proposed new section 14 (2). Honourable members, including the honourable member for Denison, may be assured that non-citizens convicted under the Commonwealth Crimes Act or any other legislation, Commonwealth or State, may always be deported under proposed new section 12 when they are within the 10- year period of liability. The Opposition has deplored this immunity after 10 years; yet in all its nonsense it has missed the point. The Oppostition let stand for 25 years a piece of legislation which differentiated between migrants who are Commonwealth citizens and aliens who are non-Commonwealth citizens. One element of the differentiation that I have removed is that migrants could be deported after five years but aliens could be deported at any time.


Mr Coleman —We all agree on that.


Mr WEST —If that is so, why did not the Opposition, when in government, not only do something about removing the discrimination but also do something about this dreadful position which it says will exist after 10 years but which has always existed after five years for Commonwealth citizens? Honourable members opposite are really saying that people who come from non-Commonwealth countries-the hundreds of thousands of Yugoslavs, Greeks and Italians-are somehow lesser people than Commonwealth citizens. That is the imputation of what they are saying. They did nothing about the fact that a Commonwealth citizen under the current Act is immune from deportation after five years, whether on security grounds, whether convicted of spying or of a crime, or because the Minister does not like him. That was the position. I have removed all the discrimination and said: 'After 10 years everyone who is a permanent resident of Australia can be considered part of Australia'.

What is the other side of the coin? Let us say that a 12-year-old Greek or Italian comes here and stays for 15 or 20 years. We will have moulded him. He will have been here for most of his life and will have been through our schools and universities and have lived under our social system. If at the end of that time he does something such as grow marihuana, do we then say: 'We do not want you. We will send you back from whence you came and that country or government can be responsible for you after we have been responsible for creating the type of citizen you are now'? That is not acceptable to us. Quite frankly, I deplore the confusion in deportation policy that existed under Ministers of the previous Government. When I got this job one of the first things that my departmental officers said to me was: 'There were almost 200 deportation cases jammed up under the former Government. You have to set out a new deportation policy to make it absolutely clear who is eligible for deportation and who is not. Then we have to amend the Migration Act'. So we set our minds to it. One of the first cases I had to make a decision on concerned the Barbaro men. I will tell the Committee about that very quickly. They were part of the Pochi case. The then Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee), decided that he would deport Pochi. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal judge said: 'No, do not deport Pochi'. We all remember that the honourable member for Balaclava made a statement in the House saying why he had to deport Pochi. What happened? As soon as he got the portfolio of Employment and Industrial Relations, the former member for Petrie, Mr Hodges, got the job and said: 'No, we will not deport Pochi after all'. What sort of caper are they putting the Pochi family through after all this? In the end the former Government said: 'No, we will not deport Pochi'. The funny thing was that it did nothing about the Barbaro men who were convicted of exactly the same crime as Pochi. That is what I am trying to redress here.

One has to see this Bill as part of the package on deportation policy that I announced in May. That statement will complement this legislation on all matters . We can then say that we have a responsible and mature policy on criminal and security deportation and that we have responsibility for these people after 10 years, whether we like it or not. We can still deport them after 10 years, but matters we will take into consideration will be, firstly, the nature of the crime; secondly, whether there is a risk of recidivism; thirdly, the contributions they have made or can be reasonably expected to make; and, fourthly, the rights of other Australian citizens or permanent residents whose rights should be taken into consideration, such as spouses and children. For the first time we have a consistent, fair and firm policy on deportation. Although it might seem to be a fringe matter, it affects the lives of people who live in Australia. I make no apologies for what I am doing here and I will reject the Opposition's amendment.