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Wednesday, 23 March 2011
Page: 2943

Mr IRONS (3:22 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to evidence provided in Senate estimates last October that the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship took no steps to exercise his powers under the Migration Act that do not rely on any criminal proceedings to rescind the permanent protection visas provided to the three SIEV36 passengers who scuttled that boat, killing four people, wounding 40 and endangering the lives of Australian Navy personnel. Why should the Australian people have any confidence that this minister will act to deal with violent rioters on Christmas Island or anywhere else?

Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Swan for his question. It raises a matter that was also raised with me yesterday by the member for Cook. I had intended at the conclusion of question time to table a letter that I provided the member for Cook with earlier today.

The matter the member for Swan raises relates to SIEV36. I can say to him that I am advised that one of the persons on SIEV36 was charged in November 2010 with two counts of resisting Commonwealth officers and the matter has been committed to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory. The relevant offences carry a maximum penalty of two years. As you would be aware, it is a matter of public record that has been confirmed previously in the House that this is one of three individuals about whom I believe the member is asking.

As I advised the member for Cook in writing, a person’s visa may be considered for cancellation if the person fails the character test under section 501 of the Migration Act. As is appropriate, the minister is awaiting the outcome of these criminal proceedings before considering any action in relation to this person. As the matter is still before the court, obviously it is inappropriate for me to comment further.

I am advised that the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, after consultation with the Northern Territory Director of Public Prosecutions and the Northern Territory Police, has determined that there is insufficient evidence to bring further charges. The letter goes on to clarify what would be well understood and well known, and that is that the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions makes those decisions independent of government. That has been the case under governments of all persuasions; and so it should, because of the separation of powers that we have—the DPP acts independently.

I would also indicate to the member, in case there is any further concern, that the issues relating to SIEV36 were extensively canvassed in the parliament last year on 17 March and then more briefly, I think, on the day after. I am advised that around five questions were asked about this matter on 17 March last year. The topic the member raises is not new; I understand that he is concerned about it, and I refer him to the letter that I have provided to the member for Cook. I table that now.