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Thursday, 17 July 2014
Page: 180


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaAssistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women) (13:51): I, too, rise to contribute to the debate on the disallowance motion. The first thing I would say to the Senate is that it is always very dangerous when a senator comes into this chamber and gives a speech which is based purely on sentiment and not fact and, even more than that, gives a speech which clearly indicates that the particular senator has not read the explanatory statement to the regulation.

I would just make the following points before turning to the actual disallowance motion. Despite the statements made by Senator Hanson-Young, the regulation does not in any way strip away family reunions for unaccompanied minors under the Special Humanitarian Program. It does not do that. It merely ensures that there is consistency in the way that family reunion under the Special Humanitarian Program is looked at. It puts unaccompanied minors under the same rules as other IMAs who may or may not be given access to a family reunion. I just want to make that very clear to the Senate. The statement that has been put forward by Senator Hanson-Young is completely, totally and utterly factually incorrect. As I said, it is very dangerous when you come into this place when you have not bothered to read the explanatory statement and you give a speech to the Senate that is based purely on sentiment and not fact. This government has to deal in facts.

I would also remind the Senate, following Senator Hanson-Young's speech to the chamber, that this government has granted more than 500 permanent protection visas to Afghan locally engaged employees.

In relation to the regulation that the Australian Greens seek to disallow, the Senate needs to understand that there are very serious issues at stake here. Why did the government bring in this regulation? The regulation that is sought to be disallowed today contains a number of measures that are required to strengthen and improve immigration policy in Australia. Let us not forget the record of the previous government: 50,000 illegal maritime arrivals; in excess of 1,200 people who died at sea; and, of course, the cost to the Australian taxpayer of a budget blow-out of almost $12 billion.

There are five separate schedules that are sought to be disallowed by the disallowance motion. I will take the Senate through each of the schedules and why the government has brought in the regulations. In relation to schedule 1 that is sought to be disallowed, public interest criterion 4020 was introduced in 2011 to strengthen the integrity of Australia's immigration program by detecting and preventing visa fraud. I do not believe that anyone in this chamber supports visa fraud—or at least I would hope they do not. Public interest criterion 4020 provides grounds to refuse the grant of a visa where there is evidence that (a) documents provided by a visa applicant are bogus and (b) statements or claims made by an applicant include false or misleading information that is material to a visa.

The first measure requires all visa applicants for skilled, student, temporary and family visas to satisfy the minister as to their identity or they cannot be granted a visa. Again, I would have thought that was just ensuring the integrity of the program. A person has to satisfy the minister as to their identity before a visa can be granted. This measure is necessary to prevent identity fraud and arises from the government's commitment to strengthen the integrity of Australia's migration program. The accurate identification of noncitizens underpins the integrity of Australia's migration program. All elements of granting a visa, including national security and character checks, rely on accurate identification of a noncitizen who applies for a visa to enter Australia. Failure to correctly identify noncitizens can of course have far-reaching consequences for government. For instance, incorrect identification can be the basis for certain noncitizens receiving other government benefits, such as Medicare or Centrelink, to which they have no entitlement. Disallowing this measure, as Senator Hanson-Young wants to do, would undermine the integrity of Australia's migration program by allowing non-genuine applicants to use fraudulent identities to obtain visas to which they are not entitled.

In relation to schedule 2—the schedule Senator Hanson-Young appears to have alluded to in her speech and, in particular, has given one-off examples and dealt with this on the basis of sentiment as opposed to fact—this measure actually aims to safeguard the lives of young people by removing the previous arrangements of providing a concession to visa applicants proposed by minors. The concession, despite Senator Hanson-Young's arguments, had previously served as an incentive for minors to come to Australia as illegal maritime arrivals. This government does not want to see any more people—men, women, children, unaccompanied minors—dying at sea. So, yes, we will put in place measures that ensure that we do not have pull factors that encourage unaccompanied minors to get on a boat, risk their life and end up being one of the 1,200 who are confirmed to have drowned at sea because of the policies that Senator Hanson-Young supported.

The measure puts the subclass 202 global special humanitarian visa applicants proposed by minors back on an equal footing with applicants proposed by adults. Again, I confirm and I need the Senate to understand that, despite Senator Hanson-Young's statements that we are actually stripping away family reunion for unaccompanied minors, the regulation does not do that. The fact of the matter is all the regulation does is ensure consistency in the way the program itself is implemented. All it does is ensure that the family reunion rights for unaccompanied minors under the special humanitarian program are put on the same footing, the same rules, as applies to all IMAs coming here. Again, it is merely about consistency in the program. But I do stress to the Senate that the measure is part of the government's border protection strategy, which is stopping the boats, preventing deaths at sea and paying a human dividend of an additional 20,000 special humanitarian program places over five years.

In regard to the third measure that is sought to be disallowed, this measure inserts public interest criteria 4020 into four temporary visa subclasses. Two of the affected visa subclasses are part of Australia's Working Holiday Maker visa program, which is a very large and beneficial program for the Australian people, in a range of areas, including of course in its economic and cultural benefits. The good governance and effective management of these visa subclasses is obviously enhanced by public interest criteria 4020, which allows the department to appropriately refuse visa applications in circumstances where the applicant has engaged in fraudulent behaviour, such as providing false or misleading information. I want to stress to the Senate and to those who may be listening to the broadcast that this particular measure allows the department to appropriately refuse visa applications in circumstances where the applicant has engaged in fraudulent behaviour, such as providing false and misleading information.

I would hope that nobody in this place actually believes that the Australian government, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, should grant a visa on the basis of fraudulent information. It is clearly not in the public interest to allow people who engage in fraudulent behaviour for the purposes of entering Australia to be allowed to do so. Disallowance of this measure, as wanted by Senator Hanson-Young, will affect the department's ability to address inappropriate behaviour of this kind. Decision makers will not be able to refuse visas where it is found that the visa applicants have provided false or misleading information. I will say it again so that everybody in the Senate understands what this disallowance does: it means that decision makers will not be able to refuse visas where it is found that the visa applicant has provided false or misleading information. Again, I say to people, I do not believe it is in the interests of the Australian public to allow the department to enable someone to enter Australia, and then grant them a visa, on the basis of false or misleading information. Disallowance will also limit the ability of the department to maintain or improve the integrity of the overall migration program.

In relation to the fourth measure that Senator Hanson-Young and the Australian Greens seek to disallow, this measure allows the department to share certain personal information about IMAs residing in the community with the Australian Federal Police or the police service of a state and territory government. In relation to this particular regulation, during the 2013 federal election campaign the government indicated its intention to enable the disclosure of information. We took this to the election and the Australian people were completely aware of what we would do if we were elected. Again, we have done exactly what we told the Australian people we would do.

In relation to the disclosure of this type of information, the disclosure supports the compliance activities of the department. I want to confirm to the Senate that those of us on this side of the chamber will ensure under all circumstances that the integrity of the migration program in Australia is maintained. We want to ensure that we put in place strong compliance measures to enable the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to adequately ensure that our borders are protected. In regard to disclosure, the government has become increasingly concerned about people who engage in criminal conduct after being released into the community from being held in immigration detention.

I will just put some facts on the table. Since 8 September 2013, the minister has personally intervened to release over 600 IMAs from held detention arrangements to reside in the community. He has personally intervened to do this. The minister has made these residence determinations under section 197AD of the Migration Act, as it was in the public interest to do so at that time. In doing that, though, the minister needs to ensure that these placements in community detention continue to remain in the public interest. Disclosure of certain personal information will assist the police in identifying whether an individual allegedly involved in criminal activity is an IMA. When this occurs, the department can be informed accordingly and, in the case of a community detainee, the minister is able to consider whether community detention placement or residence determination should be revoked. This measure assists the department in managing the community detention program and it mitigates the risks associated with the exercise of the intervention power—and, as I said, the minister has personally intervened on over 600 occasions to release people from held detention into the community, which is what I thought the Australian Greens wanted.

But, in doing that, we also have an obligation to the Australian public and we have an obligation to the state and territory governments. All this regulation does is ensure that the information that the state and territory police need to identify those in the community who may be involved in inappropriate behaviour or have committed a crime can be given to them—and to enable the minister to then determine whether or not the determination should be revoked. The measure assists the department in managing the community detention program and, as I said, mitigates the risks associated with the exercise of the intervention power.

In relation to the final schedule that Senator Hanson-Young is seeking to disallow, the fifth measure relates to the English language criteria for the subclass 457 visa program. Despite, again, the statements made by Senator Hanson-Young—which are completely, totally and utterly factually incorrect—I confirm for the chamber that the amendments did not alter the English language requirements that must be demonstrated by a subclass 457 visa applicant. I will just say that again: the amendments did not alter the English language requirements that must be demonstrated by a subclass 457 visa applicant. Rather, what the amendments did do—these are the facts—was move the English language requirements for the subclass 457 visas from the body of the regulations into a legislative instrument made by the minister. Again I confirm that the actual English language requirements to be met by subclass 457 visa applicants were not changed by this measure. The amendments simply moved the English language requirements for the subclass 457 visa applicants from the migration regulations to a legislative instrument made by the minister. If this measure is disallowed, the subclass 457 program will revert to a less adaptable framework for the English language requirements for at least six months.

As I have stated, there are five separate schedules that Senator Hanson-Young is seeking to disallow through this disallowance motion. In relation to the five schedules, everything that Senator Hanson-Young said to support the disallowance motion is factually incorrect. I make the point again: it is very easy to come into this chamber and give a speech based on sentiment. On this side of the chamber, however, we are the government. We have to deal in fact. We need to ensure that, at all times, we maintain consistency in Australia's migration program and that we maintain the integrity of Australia's migration program

The only thing that a successful disallowance motion will do today is weaken Australia's immigration policy. We were elected on the basis of restoring integrity and security to Australia's borders, and that is exactly what this government are doing. I would ask the Senate not to support the Greens' disallowance motion.