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Thursday, 18 September 2003
Page: 20476

Mr MURPHY (12:07 PM) —I rise this afternoon to support the concerns about the Migration Legislation Amendment (Identification and Authentication) Bill 2003 raised by the shadow minister for population and immigration—my colleague and good friend—the member for Gellibrand, Nicola Roxon. She has clearly identified a number of inconsistencies that are latent within this bill, both within the provisions themselves and within the context of operability and enforcement.

It must be said that this legislation is yet another example of where it appears too little thought has been given to the nature of the legislation or due regard paid to current international developments in this field of data collection of forensic information to assist in the identification of people. The international community is only just coming to grips with the extent of the problem of illegal people movements. For example, the issue of compatibility arises in the compilation of biometric databases of persons arriving in Australia. This government demonstrates its typical superficial and cynical introduction of such legislation without due consideration.

Let me say from the outset: this legislation will not and cannot work if the biometric data collected in Australia is incompatible with international databases. Like any other forensic examination of the identity of a person who is under suspicion of fraud a crosscheck must be performed on that person in other jurisdictions, including the last known departure point from which that person entered Australia.

With respect, this bill is yet another example of the government pandering to populism and the pervading sense of fear and loathing held by a majority regarding—

Mr MURPHY —The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs is puffing and blowing here, and I will say something because—

Mrs Gallus —Puffing and blowing? Can you see any puffing and blowing going on? I can't!

Mr MURPHY —I can observe them, Parliamentary Secretary—

Mr MURPHY —I will put you on notice—

Mr MURPHY —No, my vision is 20/20.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Wilkie)—The member for Lowe will refer his marks through the chair and cease replying to interjections across the table.

Mr MURPHY —It is a bit hard to ignore the interjections, Mr Deputy Speaker, when I want to make a point. I will say something later on about the forthcoming double dissolution election next year, because one of the triggers germane to this bill before the House this morning is the Migration Legislation Amendment (Further Border Protection Measures) Bill 2002.

Mr MURPHY —No, I am not calling it but your cynical Prime Minister will call it—probably for 18 September. I will say something about that because it is relevant to this bill in that one of the triggers already there is the bill I have just mentioned.

Mr MURPHY —Parliamentary Secretary, if you wait I will answer all your questions. I will take them without notice and I will do my best to answer them and to tell you why we are going to have a cynical double dissolution election—after I have made my lasting and invaluable contribution on this bill.

As I was saying, this bill is an example of the government pandering to populism in Australia because there is a pervading sense of fear and loathing held by a lot of people regarding two highly topical issues: terrorism and those we sometimes refer to as boat people. The increasing incidence of international terrorism and its impact upon Australia is clearly high on the agenda at the present time, and this policy area is a major driver of the bill before the House this afternoon. The second policy area driving this bill is the arrival of boat people in Australia. Significantly, this second driver is perhaps more directly relevant to this bill because of the fact that some 80 per cent of boat people arrive in Australia without any travel or other documentation. They are nameless people with no identity documentation of any kind.

The incidence of documented identity fraud has been an ongoing problem for many years in Australia. Yet again, I cannot hide my cynicism regarding the government's belated and half-hearted interest in this field. There are an estimated 60,000 illegal workers in Australia, and none of these people will be subjected to the purported policy and power protections afforded by this bill. Further, no real action has been taken by the government to address the obvious lucrative benefits in Australia from illegal work. One particular area that is directly relevant to this debate, and also high on the agenda, is what is called people trafficking, particularly in the area of prostitution, in Australia.

This government and the governments of the states and territories capitulate on the general laws of prostitution. I am appalled by this double standard being exhibited today by the government. One of the few powers that the public has in reducing or curtailing the activities of brothels and other disorderly houses in Australia is through the Commonwealth government's immigration powers. Such policy direction is simply too tempting for desperate women seeking money at any cost. Prostitution goes hand-in-hand with money laundering and drug trafficking. These activities are very much part of the debate here today, for there is a high correlation between identity fraud and the organised people-trafficking syndicates that systematically undermine Australia's border protection program.

This bill recognises that the combined incidence of social liberalism and permissiveness, coupled with these laws of identity fraud, create an environment where there is a very great attraction to illegally come to Australia and work. I am staggered by the data provided by the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs in his fact sheet No. 74, which states that only 173 cases of travel document fraud were identified in 2000-01. That is a drop in the ocean. That figure of 173 cases tells me one thing: this government has failed yet again to adequately equip our border protection service agencies with the staff necessary to screen even an adequate number of flight and boat arrivals in Australia.

This is particularly true for the Australian Customs Service. The ACS is unable to screen more than one in 10 aircraft arrivals in Australia—that is a fact. It is only in the last two years that the number of unlawful arrivals by sea exceeded the number of unlawful arrivals by air. Therefore, those unlawful arrivals by air constitute the bulk of the estimated 60,000 unlawful workers here in Australia today. I ask: what has the government done about these unlawful workers?

This bill will not address this flagrant attack on the Australian job market and industry protection, to say nothing about the border protection and national security implications for Australia. Equally, the message is well out in the international community that Australia is and remains an open door through which a person may freely enter with minimal surveillance and an excellent chance of doing so without detection. This is further exacerbated by the fact that the Commonwealth government does not perform routine criminal record checks. This is how Dante Tan was able to enter Australia. What a farce! Mr Tan simply resumed his criminal activities in Australia, as he had previously done in the Philippines and China—and, I might add, with a lot of help from his friends in high places.

Like anything that has a social impact or causes social harm, the solution to the problem is more about prevention than cure. I note again that the two main drivers of the government's policy shift are terrorism and the increasing number of arrivals of boat people. It is too late to attempt identity checks on people after they have arrived here in Australia. The golden solution is to deter and prevent such people from arriving in the first place. I again refer to Bills Digest No. 14 of 2003-04, which makes an interesting comparison with the issues surrounding England's Heathrow airport. The Digest notes:

... a UK Cabinet Office report entitled Identity Fraud: A Study released in July 2002 states that 50 cases of fraudulent travel documentation were detected every month at Heathrow Airport Terminal 3. It estimates that at least 10 times that number ... were not detected.

The economic reasons for arriving in England or Australia are well known. However, this bill does exactly the opposite of what is being recommended in other policy areas. The laws must be consistent; so too must the policies.

The mantra that has been heard again and again with respect to drug trafficking is: `Well, you'll never eliminate the use of drugs, so you may as well legalise and regulate them'—or words to that effect. These are puerile arguments. I say again: with people trafficking comes drug trafficking, money laundering and, predictably, organised international crime—precisely the sorts of activities that the Australian public does not want. There is also a very clear link between the incidence of organised crime, such as opium production, and international terrorism. This House is well aware that these activities are inextricably mixed and linked.

This policy conflict cannot continue. All governments—Commonwealth, state and territory—must unite to prevent the overwhelming proliferation of prostitution, drugs and money laundering. In the more general area of illegal work and those economic refugees simply seeking a more lucrative lifestyle, it is equally a case of a concomitant increase in industry protection powers. Again, this bill is window-dressing and does not face the reality that, whilst the policy conflicts and contradictions of the types I have described in areas such as prostitution continue, Australia will remain a `crook magnet' for organised crime and people trafficking.

It was during the 1990s that this government consistently allowed border protection agencies like the ACS and the Australian Quarantine Service to run down. What is not said is that the reason for this running down of border protection was pressure from powerful business lobby groups in the airline, tourism and hotel industries, who complained incessantly about undue obstruction by such agencies. These industry groups—dare I say these captains of industry—pressured this coalition government into making more and more concessions, to the point where Australia was indeed an open door, which it remains.

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee report on this bill unfortunately is not being tabled until later today in the Senate. We have been reliably informed that there will be significant recommendations for redrafting this bill and, consequently, amendments proposed.

Mrs Gallus —I hope not; it is a confidential report.

Mr MURPHY —We will see about that. Parliamentary Secretary, you want to interject, so I will just enlighten you with respect to your earlier interjection—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —I remind the member for Lowe to refer his remarks through the chair.

Mr MURPHY —Okay, Mr Deputy Speaker. I want to talk about the smorgasbord of double dissolution triggers and potential triggers, because there is one that is germane to this debate, as I was pointing out to the parliamentary secretary in response to her interjections: the Migration Legislation Amendment (Further Border Protection Measures) Bill 2002. I confidently predict that in the second half of next year the Prime Minister will go gangbusters with his smorgasbord of double dissolution triggers.

Mrs Gallus —Can you give us a date?

Mr MURPHY —I will give you the date. It is 18 September. That is when the next federal election—

Mr MURPHY —I am grateful for some advice that I received earlier today from Mr Scott Bennett from the Department of the Parliamentary Library on prospective scenarios and dates for a double dissolution. I note that the last possible date for the dissolution of both houses is Wednesday, 11 August. I do not believe the Prime Minister is a masochist; I will give him credit for that. He could have the double dissolution election, including this Migration Legislation Amendment (Further Border Protection Measures) Bill 2002, as early as 18 September, and that is the date I think he will have it on; I am ready for 18 September. Or, if he were a masochist—and I think he has probably learned from the experience of Bob Hawke's 1984 campaign—the latest possible date could be Saturday, 16 October 2004.

Why do I say that, Parliamentary Secretary? Because I believe that the Prime Minister is cynical enough to leave it to the last possible moment to have a double dissolution election. I remind you that, in addition to the Migration Legislation Amendment (Further Border Protection Measures) Bill 2002, there is one that I have a big interest in—and your Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts made it quite clear last week and this week he was going to bowl up to the Senate again with it—the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Media Ownership) Bill 2002, which we should all be very concerned about in this House because it is going to concentrate media ownership in Australia.

There is also the Family and Community Services Legislation Amendment (Disability Reform) Bill (No. 2) 2002, the National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits—Budget Measures) Bill 2002, the Trade Practices Amendment (Small Business Protection) Bill 2002, the Workplace Relations Amendment (Fair Dismissal) Bill 2002, the Workplace Relations Amendment (Secret Ballots for Protected Action) Bill 2002

Ms Gambaro —Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order relating to relevance. I ask what relevance there is in the member referring to all of the bills. I understand we are here to speak on the Migration Legislation Amendment (Identification and Authentication) Bill 2003.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Petrie raises a point of order in relation to relevance and I draw the member for Lowe's attention to the need to refer to the bill.

Mr MURPHY —That is correct. But, with great respect to my friend the member for Petrie, my comments relate to and are at the invitation of the interjections by the parliamentary secretary. The parliamentary secretary interjected earlier in my speech about when the election will be held, and a potential trigger for the election is the Migration Legislation Amendment (Further Border Protection Measures) Bill 2002.

Mrs Gallus —Just pass the legislation and there won't be one. That's all you have to do.

Mr MURPHY —Those bills are unacceptable, as is the last potential trigger, the Workplace Relations Amendment (Termination of Employment) Bill 2002, not to mention the sale of Telstra and Dr Nelson's higher education changes. I am very confident that there is going to be a double dissolution election. You asked me for my date and I have given you 18 September. But Australia will be waiting for the definitive opinion piece with regard to the prophecy of the date for the next federal election. That will come from Dennis Shanahan, the political editor of the Australian, who is extremely reliable when it comes to cabinet decisions before they are actually announced, particularly as to when elections are going to be held. We will all look out for Dennis Shanahan, because you can bet your life that he will be on the money.

I want to make it quite plain in relation to border protection that the Labor Party will be spending $600 million on an Australian coastguard. We have five new important steps to better protect Australia that we will take when we are elected to government on 18 September next year. We will introduce a US style green card to crack down on illegal workers and ensure they are not stealing Australian jobs and undermining the pay and conditions of Australians. We will smash onshore and offshore people-smuggling rings through tougher policing, including stationing more Australian Federal Police officers in Indonesia. We will impose harsher penalties, including million-dollar fines, for people smugglers. We will focus on eradicating people trafficking for the purposes of sexual or other exploitation as well as people-smuggling. Also, we will better protect our airports and seaports.

In relation to a green card to crack down on illegal workers, we believe that the largest immigration challenge facing Australia is the more than 60,000 people who are here illegally. More than a quarter of these people have been here for more than 10 years, and 30,000 people are working illegally. That is a very serious matter, and Labor are serious. When we get into government we will do something about it in a practical way, not cynically as with this bill before the House today.

In conclusion, I will await the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee report on this bill. That will be tabled later today in the Senate. We can reasonably expect that there will be significant recommendations coming from that report. There is likely to be a redrafting of the bill and amendments proposed. I look forward to making a contribution in speaking on those amendments when they come before the House.