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Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 11250


Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (15:57): I acknowledge it is the end of a long two weeks of sitting and most members want to go home, but I also acknowledge that this is important legislation that government does need certainty on. I would hope that the House acknowledges the responsibility of dealing with it, no matter how long it takes this evening. I do not support the Labor Party or the Liberal Party or the National Party or the Greens on this issue in the way it has been framed to date. I do support and strongly back a nine-year regional cooperative process, started by Alexander Downer in 2002, known as the Bali Process. If we place an emphasis on that and codify that, we will start to clean up bad law domestically, which I think was reflected on and interpreted by the High Court ruling last month. I think it is the roadmap and the process for the future in starting to, in the long term, clean up bad law regionally.

It is for that reason that I flag that I will be moving an amendment to this legislation that does the following. Under subsection 5(1), I will be looking to insert a definition of the regional cooperation framework, with the following:

'Bali Process' means the process known as the Bali Process, established at the Regional Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime held in Bali in February 2002.

I also will be looking to insert, at schedule 1, page 3, after item 4:

'Regional cooperation framework' means the framework agreed to in the co-chair's statement issued at the 4th Regional Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime held in Bali on 30 March 2011.

I will be looking to insert at schedule 1, item 25, page 6, after paragraph 198AA(a)—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): Order! I am reluctant to interrupt the honourable member for Lyne, but there will be an opportunity for the honourable member to move his amendments later.

Mr OAKESHOTT: I understand, but I will explain these. It is important. This is new for many members of the House. As to the reason why this legislation in its current form fits within the future direction and the regional cooperation framework, I will be looking to insert:

Australia's commitment to engagement through the Bali Process, including the implementation of the Regional Cooperation Framework, informs Australia's response to people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational crime …

Finally, at clause 198AI, I will insert:

The Minister must, as soon as practicable after 30 June in each year, cause to be laid before each House of the Parliament a report setting out:

(a) the activities conducted under the Bali process during the year ending on 30 June; and

(b) the steps taken in relation to people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational crime to support the Regional Cooperation Framework during the year ending on 30 June; and

(c) the progress made in relation to people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational crime under the Regional Cooperation Framework during the year ending on 30 June.

This has been a poor debate framed on the division of onshore versus offshore, of Malaysia versus Nauru, of Labor versus Liberal, of deterrents versus humanitarian issues and of the perception of many that we are being invaded by our neighbours versus those who are wanting to cooperate with our neighbours. Unfortunately, I think this House has been choosing a path of fear for fear's sake, of division for division's sake and of politics for politics' sake. In my view, it has been to date a fake disagreement when we already have a genuine process of real agreement that has been led by various immigration ministers since 2002. I am not sure whether this is about responding to dynamic slogans such as 'Stop the boats' or 'We decide who comes here and on what terms they come' but, even if that is the case, I hope we keep our eyes on working with our regional neighbours through the cooperative framework, a process that is working and delivering and that involves at least 33 countries. There are 43 countries engaged in this process, but at the most recent meeting there were 33, including Nauru and Malaysia. It is not an either/or debate that is being presented in this chamber and to the Australian people.

I urge people, using Google or any other means, to type in the words 'Bali process' and to have a look at the most recent document, the Fourth Bali Regional Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime. I think it outlines a good policy direction for Australia. It is the road map for the future. I think, therefore, we should work on codifying it in law. In reading through the High Court six-to-one decision, I could not see any reference to the Bali process. I think it is a reflection missed by the six learned judges. In response to that, I think there is a need for this parliament to codify these agreements in law and, from that, to start a process of cleaning up domestic, regional and international law and working on a cooperative framework. The clean-up on domestic law is in and around some legislation from 2001—the Migration Amendment (Excision from Migration Zone) Act and the Migration Amendment (Excision from Migration Zone) (Consequential Provisions) Act—that looks to be in conflict with what regional agreement was trying to achieve at the most recent meeting of the 33 countries, including Nauru, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and all who met as part of that nine-year process. I think there is a need to clean up some domestic laws. Hopefully, if we can codify this agreement as a road map forward, it can flow on the back of that agreement by the parliament. Our request to the executive is to focus on this document.

Likewise, rather than the slogan of 'Stopping the boats'—and I understand it and certainly acknowledge that it is an aspirational goal for all of us—I hope that, regionally, we can think about reframing this process and working on lifting the boats. We need to lift whatever the 43 countries involved in this agreement need, in a cooperative manner, to reach a humanitarian status that allows us to work on law enforcement and border security together. We need to do what we can with both genuine refugees and the not-so-genuine movement of people throughout the region, both in transit and at the source. It is through regional cooperation and regional agreement that we are going to deal with this issue, not through domestic politics and division and disagreement for partisan gain.

As I said before, I urge all members of this House to have a good read of those general principles from the most recent meeting on the Bali process and to reflect on their positions. Hopefully, as part of stopping the boats we can also stop the games that have been going on in this political debate. Those amendments will be moved shortly and I would hope to get as much support in this House as possible.

The only other point I would like to make, which I hope all of us reflect on, is that words and language matter. It is incredibly disappointing to listen to the debate and hear the way we make many parts of this very complex issue faceless in the way the law is written and language is used. Language is important in both our public and our private lives. It can shape the way we think about people and problems. All of us should think about the word 'processing', for example, when talking about asylum seekers and those genuinely seeking refugee status. This word, in my view, dehumanises these people. They are not products on a factory line. They are people who are seeking to have their claims for refugee status assessed by our country. I ask the House and the Australian community to think about replacing the word 'processing' with the word 'assessing' or some other more respectful word for what actually is going on in what is a complex area of public policy. I know it is a small step but it is an important one, in my view, in bringing some humanity back to this difficult issue.

As well, I hope we reflect on some other language in migration law. Terms such as 'offshore entry persons' completely dehumanise what is going on, remove the faces and allow us all to be emotionless about this very complex issue. With that in mind, I know the Commonwealth Ombudsman is on a plain English campaign. I will be writing to the Commonwealth Ombudsman to ask him to think about choosing the Migration Act as a starting point for that plain English campaign. Hopefully, he will take up that offer and we can start to put some respect and values back into the way we write law and the way we deal with all people in and around Australia.

I look forward to the support of the House in the regional framework. It has at various times in the last nine years had the very strong support of both political parties. It will be an interesting test of whether we are seeking good public policy or just some partisan politics. I hope it is supported for the long-term interests of better public policy. The regional solution, in my view, is the real solution. I urge the House to consider the amendments.