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Tuesday, 22 March 2011
Page: 2822


Mr SIMPKINS (7:14 PM) —I certainly welcome this opportunity to speak on the Combating the Financing of People Smuggling and Other Measures Bill 2011. This bill makes certain amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006. As we know, that was created by the Howard government. It talks to the requirement for the reporting of international funds transfers of over $10,000. So those performing remittances need to report those transactions to AUSTRAC. This was a bill for the time. There were issues regarding terrorism—as there still are today—and issues regarding criminal activity, the money-laundering problems that still exist today. So it was very much an act for the time. There is no doubt that it served its purpose. I pay tribute to Senator Ellison for the work that he did to bring that bill and then act before the parliament.

That is one thing. That is what the act at the time was designed to achieve: to make sure that those transactions that took place were properly reported and then investigated if required. That was what it was all about. On the other hand there was the issue of border control and the people smuggling that took place. To fix that problem, the government at the time decided on a different set of measures. Those measures were ultimately successful, as they reduced the boat arrivals to a mere trickle. I think there was one boat arrival in 2002, and it was pretty much along the same lines after that. So there was a law for money laundering and counterterrorism financing. And there was a policy with Nauru and temporary protection visas. That solved the other problem.

When we look at this bill—and I am holding up a copy of the minister’s second reading speech—what we see is an attempt to convert the original Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act into something which the government is putting out there and suggesting is going to represent progress on solving the problem of people smuggling. It has already been pointed out by so many speakers before me that there is very little reference in the second reading speech—or the bill, really—with regard to people smuggling.

The problem is that the ultimate problem is not going to be solved by this sort of thing. We know how to solve the problem. Those members who were here before knew how to solve the problem. The member for Leichhardt was around when the problem was solved before, when the measures were put in place that actually stopped all the boats—or stopped all but one or two boats a year. But, unfortunately, the government cannot bring itself to put those measures back in place which would solve the problem. So we are shadow-boxing around with this bill, where the government brings it before the parliament and supposes that this is going to be the panacea that will result in a reduction in people smuggling. But we will get to that.

This bill is about the 6½ thousand providers of remittance services. This bill is about those other organisations and bodies that might also end up providing remittance services. It is basically about more remittance providers being included under the original act and the ability for more government agencies to be informed about the remittances that take place. That is basically what this bill is all about. We know that it supposes itself to be an attempt to reduce people smuggling. That is what it supposes. I noted, when I was listening earlier this evening in my office to this debate, a number of comments that were made. I think it was the member for Canberra and the member for Dobell who waxed lyrically about the $2 billion that the government has spent on its anti-people-smuggling border control strategy.


Mrs Griggs —They are still coming!


Mr SIMPKINS —Yes, exactly right. But I would suggest that what we do not have here is a strategy. What we have is the purchase of a number of very expensive bandaids. I do not call it a strategy when you are faced, over a couple of years, with such a huge expansion of demand for beds that you have to start bringing extra money out to provide those beds—4,900 more beds since the election, $400 million—none of which was forecast in the budget. It was all a surprise, but that is no strategy. This is catching up; this is a bandaid and a very big and expensive bandaid indeed.

Clearly as the government tries to address the primary problem of stopping these boats—addressing the problem not with the means, not with the tools that have worked in the past for this country but through just shadow-boxing around, trying to achieve something without doing what needs to be done—of course what needs to be done is the reintroduction of temporary protection visas. What needs to be done is making presumptions against the refugee status if someone turns up without identity papers.

The coalition policy is well known and it has been tabled again tonight, so I am very happy about that. I recently got figures back regarding a question on notice I put to the minister for immigration. I asked how many people who came from, for instance, Pakistan in 2010 used aircraft on their way here. The result was around 2,600 of those people came from Afghanistan. Rather they said that they used aircraft. I suspect that there were probably more that used aircraft but did not say that they did. In fact, there must be a whole lot more than that who came from Afghanistan. An interesting point is that of all of those who came from Afghanistan, only about 550 or 600 people had identity papers when they got here. That is an interesting point. I am sure the member for Solomon agrees with this: there are huge numbers of people coming, thousands of people coming, and yet, despite the fact that they have travelled through places like Indonesia, through airports—Jakarta, maybe Kuala Lumpur or however—by the time they get here a mere fraction still retain their identity papers.


Mrs Griggs —Strange, isn’t it?


Mr SIMPKINS —I think it is strange indeed. Most countries have a requirement that you need a passport or some form of identity paper to progress through immigration control. But sadly, or conveniently perhaps, by the time someone gets on a boat, there must have been a bad wave or something like that because so many of their identity papers are floating around in the Timor Sea—maybe conveniently so. I really do wonder how ASIO and other agencies identify the people who are on these boats given the fact that clearly a vast majority of them have tried to conceal their identities. Who knows how you would identify someone who has no photo identification and will tell you basically what they think is going to work. Clearly, these are the problems that need to be fixed and these are the problems that this bill is not going to address.

On the point of the bill specifically: a couple of weeks ago a constituent came to me in my office and said that she had recently been standing near one of the post offices not far from my office. This had been a couple of weeks before she saw me. She said to me that there were two people talking about how they were transferring money back to Afghanistan or Pakistan or one of those two countries; she was not clear on that. They were sending as much money as they possibly could—$3,000 or $4,000 at a time—and this had been a regular thing. This lady said to me, ‘You know what that is all about?’ I suspect that I do know what that is about. I suspect that that is, as the member for Berowra was saying earlier, about people having decided, ‘The best way to get our relatives here is not to apply through the proper channels; the best way is to send money back home so that the people smugglers can be engaged and the money paid, subverting the system.’ As the member for Berowra said, we used to call them accessories. Maybe we could even call that a conspiracy to bypass the laws of this country. So there might be some value in this bill, but I really wonder whether, for those who do send money out of Australia to help their relatives bypass the system, this bill will still do what needs to be done and whether the $3,000 to $4,000 that might go at each point will actually be addressed here. I suspect not.

I go back—and I really have taken too much time tonight on this matter—to this: the ultimate problem the government faces is that there must be a true discouragement to those who come by boat; they have got to believe that the money that they might spend in paying people smugglers would be wasted and that there would be no guarantee of coming to this country. That is done through temporary protection visas; that is done through offshore processing. It has been achieved in the past. The problem was fixed back in 2001; John Howard fixed it. People were not losing their lives out on the Timor Sea. People were not losing their lives out on the Indian Ocean if they were coming from Sri Lanka. To me, the compassion in this argument is, very clearly, in putting measures in place that are going to discourage people from risking their lives. That is a damn good way to go.