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Thursday, 12 May 2011
Page: 3953

Mr BROADBENT (McMillan) (12:31): I commend the member for Shortland for her support of volunteers. I walked across here today with Rachel Franklin and Jessica Thompson—Rachel is from Leongatha Secondary College, and Jessica Thompson is from Wonthaggi Secondary College. They are here on the Rotary Adventure in Citizenship program. As I walked here with them, I was reminded of the grinder in my shed and this parliament. This parliament can be that grinder, and, depending on what you are made of, it can either grind you down or it can polish you up. I choose to be one that is polished up.

Today I hand to the parliament a petition from the Uniting Church of Australia in support of complementary protection. There is legislation going before the parliament right now and being discussed right now on complementary protection. I have always supported the introduction of complementary protection. Therefore, I am opposed to the principal standing of my party at the moment. The legislation before the parliament now is supported by the Uniting Church in this petition which I am about to hand over.

There are problems with the legislation even now, and we have to guard against legislation we bring into parliament with a specific intention of protection of an individual who cannot be protected in any other way except through ministerial intervention. At the same time, what if we introduce a law that in a backward way actually affects whether a person can stay here because they are treated under the new legislation and the new law in a different manner which may exclude them? I do not think I have explained myself well—but legislation can often have unintended consequences. So we have to guard at all times against unintended consequences of legislation.

I will stand with my party and oppose the current legislation because I think it could be cleaner and better presented. There is always an argument—and not just about this legislation—about ministerial control as against parliamentary control. That is what this argument is all about. In a perfect world we could say, 'Well, when we have the most difficult case, it just gets referred to the minister of the day and the minister of the day makes that decision'; except that that depends on the politics of the day, what is happening on the day, how many decisions are referred to the minister and whether the minister can actually have the information to make that decision. I trust that ministers can. I trust in the broader wisdom of this parliament, the ministers that serve in this parliament and the guidelines that they put in place for themselves.

Because we are one country that does not have complementary legislation, I can imagine why our community supports complementary legislation: so that those people affected by this, who cannot be accommodated in any other way, can either go to the minister or affect the criteria of the legislation that we have just put in place so they can be assessed as a refugee or as somebody who will suffer refoulement or a difficulty going back to their own country. They may be facing the death penalty if they arrive back in that country. It is a pretty big issue, especially with a nation like ours that opposes the death penalty as a bipartisan statement which we broadcast across the world.

So, whilst I am supportive of complementary protection legislation, I am also a part of a team and I will go into that parliament when we vote and I will vote with my team. I will vote with the coalition. But I put on notice that I have always been a supporter of complementary protection legislation, as long as we as a parliament can get it right. There are a number of opinions as to the legislation that is coming before us, about whether it is correct legislation and has the right balance. So I now present this petition.

The petition read as follows—

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives

The petition of certain citizens of Australia draws to the attention of the House:

Australia is currently one of the only developed countries which does not have a Complementary Protection process in place for those who arrive in Australia in need of protection and who fall outside the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugee (Refugee Convention) criteria. This includes girls and women facing honour killings and female genital mutilation.

Australia has clear obligations under a number of international treaties not to return a person seeking protection to a place where their lives or well-being could be threatened (nonrefoulement).

Complementary Protection legislation would ensure that Australia fulfils its nonrefoulement obligations.

Your petitioners therefore ask the House to:

Pass Complementary Protection legislation that adequately protects people who fall outside of the Refugee Convention criteria but who would face situations of danger or even death if returned to their home country.

from 1034 citizens

Petition received.