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Thursday, 20 September 2001
Page: 27495


Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (11:47 AM) —I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows

MIGRATION AMENDMENT (EXCISION FROM MIGRATION ZONE) BILL

The Australian public has a clear expectation that Australian sovereignty, including in the matter of entry of people to Australia, will be protected by this parliament and the government.

The Australian public expects its government to exert control over our borders, including the maritime borders to our north.

In the light of growing threats to our borders I am introducing a package of three inter-related bills today.

These bills are the Migration Amendment (Excision From Migration Zone) Bill, a consequential bill, and finally a bill to enhance our border protection powers and confirm that recent actions taken in relation to vessels carrying unauthorised arrivals, including the MV Tampa, are valid.

Before providing an overview of the objectives of each of these bills, I need to explain why we are doing this - why we are doing what the Australian public expects we should do.

Growth of unauthorised boat arrivals

We all know about the dramatic increase over the past few years in the number of unauthorised people who have been arriving in Australia by boat - we read about it every month in our newspapers.

In the late 1970's we had some unauthorised boat arrivals from Vietnam, in the late 1980's some from Cambodia, and in the mid 1990's some from the People's Republic of China.

However these were comparatively small in numbers, and importantly Australia could have been considered as a country of first asylum for people fleeing some of these countries.

What has changed since then has been the growth of organised criminal gangs of people smugglers who are motivated not by any desire to help others, but by base motives of greed.

This form of organised crime is found throughout the world and preys on people who are unwilling, for whatever reason, to go through normal procedures for entry to the country of destination.

Many of the people moved around the world by these smugglers have either no protection needs, or have bypassed effective protection arrangements in countries closer to their home, simply so they can achieve their preferred migration outcome.

To give some indication of the way in which people smuggling has affected Australia, in the financial year 1998 to 1999 there were 921 unauthorised arrivals by boat on Australian shores.

In the financial year 2000 to 2001 this number had increased to 4,141 unauthorised arrivals.

In the last full calendar month - august 2001 - no fewer than 1,212 people arrived in an unauthorised way on Australian shores.

Work of government to combat people smuggling

So it is apparent that these criminal gangs have been targeting Australia, among other countries.

We as a government have worked assiduously to counter this evil trade.

We are working with other governments and with international organisations towards prevention of the problem by minimising the outflows from countries of origin and secondary outflows from countries of first asylum.

We are also working with other countries to disrupt people smugglers and intercept their customers en route to their destination.

However, regardless of much effort by many governments, law enforcement agencies and international organisations, the illegal trade in people smuggling persists.

The smugglers don't care what happens to the people who get on boats arranged by them.

They don't care what happens to the boats themselves.

They don't check to see whether the people being smuggled are criminals or genuine asylum seekers.

The only thing they care about is getting paid.

According to media reports there are at least another 5,000 people currently in Indonesia and Malaysia who are waiting for arrangements to be finalised with the people smugglers for travel to Australia by boat.

Further media reports indicate that the smugglers are determined to collect their payments and continue their dirty business.

We also know that the steps we have taken, and will take, to front up to the most recent arrivals, are being watched as a sign of how determined we are.

We have to act to show our strong determination that these smugglers don't get their own way.

The Australian public demands it.

The government is determined to stop these smugglers, and this package of bills is an important step in achieving our goals.

The third in this package of bills will provide for minimum mandatory sentences for people convicted of people smuggling offences under the Migration Act.

The changes will provide that repeat offenders should be sentenced to at least 8 years imprisonment, whilst first offenders should be sentenced to at least 5 years.

Those provisions will send a red light to would-be people smugglers.

This first of the three bills is designed to fulfill the commitment the Prime Minister made on the eighth of September to excise some Australian territories from the migration zone.

The territories principally involved are the Ashmore and Cartier islands in the Timor Sea, Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, and offshore resource and similar installations.

The government has also decided that the territory of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands should be excised from the migration zone with effect from noon yesterday, the 17th of September.

These territories will become `excised offshore places', which will mean that simply arriving unlawfully at one of them will not be enough to allow visa applications to be made.

The effects of this bill will be limited only to those who arrive without lawful authority.

Australian citizens and others with authority to enter or reside in the territories will not be affected.

I will shortly be introducing the second in this package of bills, which will deal with consequential matters flowing from the decision to excise these territories from the migration zone.

The third bill that I will introduce today will deal with validation of the government's actions in relation to vessels carrying unauthorised arrivals, such as the MV Tampa, and to enhance our border protection powers.

The package should not be misinterpreted as `fortress Australia' legislation.

Australia will continue to honour our international protection obligations.

We can be, and we are, justly proud of our immigration record and our welcome to settlers from all over the world.

Since 1945, almost 5.7 million people have come to Australia from other countries.

Almost 600 000 of those have come to Australia under our refugee and humanitarian programs.

Today, nearly one in four of Australia's 19 million people were born overseas.

Australian society has embraced people from around 150 different ethnic groups and nationalities.

A central part of Australia's commitment to migration has been its open and generous refugee resettlement programs.

On a per capita basis, Australia is second only to Canada in its generosity to refugees and people of humanitarian concern.

Australia's record is impressive against any measure and has been achieved by the determination of many governments to ensure that our programs are transparent and fair.

However, the success of migration to Australia also depends on the integrity that our programs have demonstrated.

This integrity cannot be maintained if Australia's maritime borders can be crossed at will.

The message that we, as a country, want to send has two elements:

· Australia is a country whose nation building record owes much to those who migrate here, and we will continue to welcome those whom we invite.

· But, we will not tolerate violation of our sovereignty and we are determined to combat organised criminal attempts to land people illegally on our shores.

In summary, this is an important package of bills for both the government and the Australian people.

It will significantly reduce incentives for people to make hazardous voyages to Australian territories.

It will help ensure that life is made as difficult as possible for those criminals engaged in the people smuggling trade.

Most of all, it will help ensure that the integrity of our maritime borders and our refugee program is maintained.

I commend the bill to the chamber.

—————

MIGRATION AMENDMENT (EXCISION FROM MIGRATION ZONE) (CONSEQUENTIAL PROVISIONS) BILL

This bill is the second in a package of three bills designed to ensure that Australia has control over who crosses our maritime borders.

The purpose of this bill is to make some consequential amendments to the Migration Act and Migration Regulations following the excision of some Australian territories from the migration zone in respect of unauthorised arrivals.

The clear message of the bill is that people who abandon or bypass effective protection opportunities will not be rewarded by the grant of a permanent visa for Australia.

There are over 22 million refugees and people of concern to the UNHCR world wide and limited resources available to deal with them.

The refugees convention does not confer a right on any of these people to choose their country of asylum.

It is clearly up to Australia to determine who can cross our borders, who can stay in Australia, and under what conditions such people can remain.

This bill therefore provides strengthened powers to deal with people who arrive unlawfully at one of the territories beyond the migration zone.

These include powers to move the person to another country where their claims, if any, for refugee status may be dealt with.

Related provisions in the bill will preclude the institution of legal proceedings relating to such people in any court - apart from the High Court.

Finally, the bill amends the Migration Regulations to implement a visa regime aimed at deterring further movement from, or the bypassing of, other safe countries.

It does this by creating further disincentives to unauthorised arrival in Australia by those who seek to use smugglers to achieve a resettlement place they may well not need - a place taken from refugees with no other options available to them.

Unauthorised arrivals and those who leave their countries of first asylum will be able to be granted only temporary visas for Australia.

They will not have any family reunion rights.

For people such as those who have recently attempted to enter Australia by boat there will be no access to permanent residence, and their period of stay on temporary visas will be limited to three years, after which their situation will be reassessed.

I commend the bill to the chamber.

—————

BORDER PROTECTION (VALIDATION AND ENFORCEMENT POWERS) BILL

This bill is the third in a package of three bills designed to ensure that Australia has control over who crosses our maritime borders.

The purpose of this bill is to enhance our border protection powers and to confirm that recent actions taken in relation to vessels carrying unauthorised arrivals to Australian waters are valid.

Those who enter our territorial waters contrary to an express direction from the government should not be rewarded by being allowed to stay in our waters or, even worse, by having the opportunity to enter our land territory.

This legislation will ensure that there is no doubt about the validity of our border control powers and the government's actions in relation to vessels such as the MV Tampa.

The protection of our sovereignty, including Australia's sovereign right to determine who shall enter Australia, is a matter for the Australian government and this parliament.

Consequently, sections 4, 5 and 6 ensure that actions taken in relation to the Tampa since 27 august of this year are taken for all purposes to have been lawful when they occurred.

This also extends to actions taken in relation to the `Aceng', a boat from Indonesia which later attempted to enter Australian waters near Ashmore Reef.

The bill also will enhance the border protection powers found in the Customs Act and the Migration Act, including the provision of powers to move vessels carrying unauthorised arrivals and those on board.

It is essential to have these powers.

They will be exercised in line with our international maritime obligations to ensure the safety of those concerned.

The maintenance of Australian sovereignty includes our sovereign right to determine who will enter and reside in Australia.

The provisions in this bill are overwhelmingly in Australia's national interest.

In fact one of the great enduring responsibilities of a government is to protect the integrity of Australia's borders.

Finally, the bill provides mandatory sentencing arrangements for people convicted of people smuggling offences under the Migration Act.

These offences apply where 5 or more people are smuggled and carry a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment.

The changes will provide that repeat offenders should be sentenced to at least 8 years imprisonment, whilst first offenders should be sentenced to at least 5 years.

The mandatory sentencing arrangements will not however apply to minors.

I commend the bill to the chamber.

Ordered that further consideration of these bills be adjourned to the first day of the 2001 summer sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.