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Thursday, 13 September 2018
Page: 6372


Senator STOKER (Queensland) (15:20): I am continually shocked by the short memories of those opposite in this chamber. As they come in here and preach to us about doing the right thing when it comes to section 44, they seem to have forgotten that for months and months Labor Party parliamentarians had not just some risk of being ineligible, not just a small doubt; they had absolutely no basis on which anyone could have misunderstood their status. They were clearly ineligible to sit in this parliament because of dual citizenship issues. Nevertheless, with almost a contempt for the rules that apply to this game, those opposite happily supported three members of their team continuing to participate in the decisions of this parliament and continuing to receive all of the benefits and privileges that come with holding these offices. It was only when they were dragged kicking and screaming and were ruled out by the High Court that they faced up to reality.

Let's compare that to the way doubts about section 44 have been dealt with on this side of the chamber. I can say, with some comfort, that this has been dealt with ethically and in a way that respects the importance of Australia's Constitution every time an issue of this nature has cropped up on the coalition side of the room. When John Alexander came to find that circumstances existed that meant he had a problem, he immediately took measures to deal with it—immediately. When Barnaby Joyce had an issue and when Senator Canavan had an issue, they were up-front about dealing with it. Senator Canavan happily stood down from his ministry and happily did what had to be done because, more than anything else, his loyalty was to this country.

So I am reluctant to accept the sanctimonious bleating of those opposite about the eligibility of Mr Dutton. They've pointed out just how important the decisions he has made in that role are, and can I say I wholeheartedly agree that in his role he is responsible for some enormously important work. He is part of a team who, along with Scott Morrison when he was Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, has completely brought to an end the saga of boat after boat after boat of asylum seekers arriving on our shores, risking their lives at sea. He has helped put an end to this cycle of deaths at sea in the cruellest of circumstances, and he has reconfigured our immigration policy to provide fairness to those people in desperate circumstances who seek refuge in this country but who do it by the book, who follow the proper processes, who apply in a transparent and honourable way. In doing so, he has not just vastly reduced the number of people who face detention; he has completely eliminated the situation of children being in detention. We don't have to think back very long to remember a time when Labor had thousands of children in detention because they simply could not stem the flow of boats arriving on our shores. But now we have a situation where we are getting through that backlog. All of the children are out, and we can confidently say we have a fairer and more transparent process for dealing with immigration and refugee issues in this country.

I have complete confidence in his ability as a minister. I also note that he has been transparent in providing legal advice that he has received. The Solicitor-General's advice has been obtained. Does the advice 100 per cent, hand on heart, eliminate absolutely every potential option under the sun? Well, quite honestly, I haven't yet seen a lawyer's advice that does. All lawyers acknowledge the different constellations of circumstances that can change in time. But we have a conclusive answer in the legal advice. It's plain for all to see. It's time for those in the Labor Party to stop playing games and get on with the job of working for Australians.