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Wednesday, 24 August 1983
Page: 227

Mr LEO McLEAY(10.00) —I find it fascinating to listen to some of the arguments put forward by Opposition members in the debate this evening. It seems that they have forgotten very quickly the actions of the Government that they were a part of some few short months ago. Rather than denigrate the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr West) as they have done in the previous two hours of debate on this matter I think they should congratulate the Minister for another move in a new, progressive migration package for Australia. The policies that have been outlined by the Minister in the few short months that he has held his portfolio have made Australia's immigration program a lot fairer than it was under the previous Government. In Australia we now have a genuine family reunion policy which we have never had.

I found it interesting to hear the previous speaker, the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman), tell us that the Government should have a decent family reunion policy and a decent refugee policy. I say to the honourable member and to the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), the Opposition spokesman for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, that they can look at the files in my office whenever they like and see literally thousands of letters I have from previous Liberal-National Party Ministers who would not let into the country anyone seeking to come in my electorate. We heard the shadow spokesman-there seems to be more shadow than substance in most of the things he says-tell us tonight how uneasy he feels about the Government's proposal to do away with ministerial discretion. He thinks it is terrible that the present Minister has said that he is not too keen on ministerial discretion.

The honourable member for Mitchell inadvertently let the cat out of the bag. He exposed to the Parliament what a rort this ministerial discretion was. Any member on this side of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker-especially you, with an electorate such as yours-would be as well aware as I am that when one wrote to previous Liberal-National Party Ministers putting excellent cases for family reunion and ministerial discretion, all one got was a flat no. The honourable member let the cat out of the bag. He let the Parliament and the people know that if in those days one was on the Government side ministerial discretion was very easy. He exposed to the Parliament tonight the rort that people in the immigration system in this country were pulling. I think it is very good that the present Minister is putting an end to that sort of inequity. It is completely and utterly wrong that someone who lives in my electorate should be disadvantaged in the case that he puts to the Government when compared with a person who lived in an electorate that was represented by a Liberal-National Party member in the days when the coalition was in government. I think the Minister deserves all the credit in the world for what he has done to do away with that rotten rort that people were using for some short term electoral gain.

I am also concerned at the degree of intolerance that we have seen creeping into this debate from the Opposition side. Opposition members seem to be saying to the Government and the Parliament tonight that deportation is a good thing, that one must widen the net. The next thing they will be suggesting is that we ought to have a deportation quota every week, that we ought to get rid of a certain number of people every week. We have to find other reasons to get rid of these people from the country. I find it fascinating that the Opposition spokesman, who from time to time in this place, purports to be some sort of a Philadelphia lawyer, is saying that not only should a person who is convicted of a crime do his time but also after he has done his time we should give him a double penalty; we should deport him. A lawyer and anyone who has any interest in civil liberties-not that I think the honourable member for Denison ever has had any interest in civil liberties-would see that it is abhorrent that in relation to the law one makes two classes of people in a country; and that some people should get a double penalty. The honourable member is leaving the chamber because he knows that the rort has been exposed and he does not want to stay here to take his medicine.

Mr Hodgman —Madam Deputy Speaker, so that the Hansard record does not get confused, that comment followed straight after reference to me. I am here and I will continue to stay here despite the fact that the honourable member's comments are absolutely ridiculous.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mrs Child) —The honourable member for Grayndler was referring to the honourable member for Mitchell who has just walked out.

Mr LEO MCLEAY —Spurious points of order will not put me off what I want to say. Tonight Opposition members suggested that people who are not Australian citizens should have less entitlement before the law. They are saying that if a person is not an Australian citizen and he is convicted of a crime in this country he can do his time in gaol-to hear the honourable member for Mitchell suggest that all we would do is deport people is crazy-we will give him a second penalty; we will deport him. I think it is quite improper to suggest that there should be that double penalty for people who are not Australian citizens. There is no point in the honourable member for Denison nodding his head because that is what he is saying; that is what his supporters are saying and that is what the honourable member for Mitchell just said. He said that we have to widen the net; we have to get rid of more and more people who are not Australian citizens.

The amendment to be moved by the honourable member for Denison places a terrible slur on the migrant community in Australia. The honourable member's proposed amendment singles out migrants who are convicted of trafficking in dangerous drugs or who have been convicted in Australia. Why single out the migrant community as the people who may have been involved in drug trafficking? That is what this proposed amendment does. It is a slur on people and it demonstrates the intolerance that the Opposition has introduced into this debate tonight. I think the Minister's proposals are fair and equitable. The Minister should be congratulated on the new criteria for family reunion that he has introduced into the Parliament and has had adopted. Any proposal that takes away a lot of the anguish experienced by many families because of the draconian proposals that the previous Government had for deportation is a good thing. Many people in my electorate might have got a 12-month gaol sentence when they were 18 or 19 years of age. Their families have had to spend 12 months worrying about whether the family member will be deported, when their brothers, sisters and children might be Australian citizens.

The present proposals suggest that after 10 years people can feel safe. Under the proposals of the previous Government, even if one got a parking ticket one might have ended up being on the next ship out. That sort of anguish should not have been placed on people and the proposals brought in by the Minister will relieve that sort of anguish. People will know where they stand. The proposals should be adopted by the House. They are progressive; they are sensible and they will be welcomed by the people in Australia whom they affect. I commend the Migration Amendment Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Campbell) adjourned.