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Discussion of legislation relating to foreign pilots recruited following the 1989 air pilots' dispute.

JENNY HUTCHISON: Immigration has been in the news this past fortnight. The Government's demonstrating its resolve to get tough with illegal immigrants. Minister Gerry Hand is reminding them there'll be no more amnesties and those remaining will be pursued, deported, and then ineligible to apply for re-entry for up to five years. It's being suggested also, that the Taxation Office should require proof of legal residency before granting tax file numbers. And the Joint Committee has conducted a two day hearing at Parliament House on the problem of fraudulent marriages entered into solely to enhance a claim for residency. However, compassion is still being extended to some groups - for example, those from Lebanon and Sri Lanka, given continuing unrest in those countries. And there's another almost forgotten group of migrants for whom the Commonwealth decided special regulations were needed - the foreign air pilots recruited after the pilots' dispute. Their fate was under discussion during the last sitting week because of a move to disallow those special regulations - a move explained by Australian Democrat Senator, Sid Spindler.

SID SPINDLER: That motion, Mr Deputy President, relates to the disallowance of migration regulations 129 and 142B which, in brief, entitled the Department of Immigration to issue residential permits to pilots, very specifically, pilots whose previous permits are under challenge in the Federal Court. The whole situation must be viewed against the backdrop of the pilots' strike and we are all familiar with the history of that. I do not intend, in what I have to say about this particular issue of disallowance, to review the merits or de-merits of the pilots' strike and of the actions that were taken by the various parties and whether or not they were justified. The issues here are, perhaps, twofold. The main one is whether it is right and proper for executive government to intervene in the judicial process by legislation when it looks as though the executive government is losing a particular case. Secondly, there is an issue of substantive consideration, as to whether we should facilitate the entry of qualified personnel from overseas when there are hundreds of people in Australia with similar, excellent qualifications to fill whatever vacancies occur, and when these hundreds of people are currently without a job.

JENNY HUTCHISON: For the Opposition, South Australian Senator, Baden Teague, summarised his reaction to the Government's handling of the situation before disappointing Senator Spindler.

BADEN TEAGUE: My first observation is critical of the Government. Its whole handling of the dispute between the pilots and the domestic airlines last year was atrocious. My second observation is to note the bungling incompetence of this Government in its handling of immigration policy and legislation in the last 12 months. The regulations we're debating today are part of a larger set of regulations which the Government needed to introduce to cover its errors and mismanagement. Thirdly, Mr President, I deplore the secrecy with which the Government surrounded the making of these regulations as the Government did not do anything to make known to the community that these particular regulations, affecting foreign pilots, had been made. They were approved on 11 July and gazetted on 12 July, but it was only after a number of weeks had passed that their existence became known. In a highly sensitive and controversial matter like this, that is not good enough. My fourth observation is to underline the Opposition's concern that the Government made these regulations in July with the deliberate intention of trying to chop off the legal challenge being mounted to its action, in allowing the foreign pilots to enter Australia under previous regulations.

The Opposition believes in the rule of law in this country but, clearly, this Government only believes in it when it suits the Government. All these factors are of concern to the Senate and they reflect no credit at all on the Government. Those factors on their own, of course, are not enough to give grounds for disallowing the regulations. Rather, the Senate needs to consider as a practical matter, what the actual effects would be of approving this disallowance motion and making its judgment on that basis. In short, disallowing these regulations today would not, in the end, alter the outcome. There is, therefore, no good purpose to be served in supporting the disallowance.

JENNY HUTCHISON: The Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Bolkus, quickly dismissed the Democrat motion.

NICK BOLKUS: What we really have to tackle today is the particular, and precisely the issue that is raised by the move for disallowance, and that is, what effect will that have on the rights of the applicants and the rights of the individuals involved? It's a useless exercise. I don't know why Senator Spindler has fallen for it. I don't know why he's pursuing it, because no matter what the rhetoric, no matter how much time we take this morning, the reality is that those rights conferred by such regulations, will still accrue to those individuals involved.

JENNY HUTCHISON: After the vote, in which two Independents joined with the Australian Democrats against a combined vote of Government and Coalition Senators, a disappointed Senator Spindler concluded.

SID SPINDLER: What we really have here, I believe, is first of all a Labor Government imposing its will to allow, in a strike situation, for the importation of scabs to break a strike and I, once again, do not advert to the merits or de-merits of the strike. I simply recite the facts, and we have a situation where the Opposition, perhaps anticipating that some time in the future they will be in Government, wants to preserve unto itself a precedent which allows it to import scabs to break strikes. Now, whatever their motivations, it seems to me that it is a sad day for the Senate, Madam Acting Deputy President, where we have the two parties agreeing that it is satisfactory for the executive government to intervene in the judicial process and to take away the rights of individuals in that process.