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Thursday, 7 November 1991
Page: 2685


Dr THEOPHANOUS (10.52 p.m.) —In relation to the last matter raised by the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Bradford), it is highly inappropriate to raise individual cases in the Parliament in this way, especially when they are still under consideration. The honourable member's whole contribution was based on gross ignorance. I suggest that before he makes another speech on immigration he should go and study the reports of the Joint Standing Committee on Migration Regulations which refer to the issues we are addressing this evening.

  I am not overly surprised, but I am disappointed to see that the shadow Minister for immigration and ethnic affairs, the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock), has moved an amendment in relation to a whole range of issues. He knows that they are extremely complex issues as he has been involved in the Joint Standing Committee which produces reports on these issues. He also knows that these are very difficult issues to come to grips with; nevertheless, he has attacked the Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs (Mr Hand) and has said that the Minister has not done enough on these matters.


Mr Bradford —He hasn't.


Dr THEOPHANOUS —Come on!


Mr Bradford —You don't want him to. You don't care.


Dr THEOPHANOUS —I do care. I am the Chairman of the Committee that made the recommendations. What a fool the honourable member is. The fact of the matter is that this Minister has done more than any other Minister to deal with the hard questions of immigration, such as illegal immigrants, the problem of false marriages as a basis of immigration and refugee determination. If the honourable member for Dundas were a bit more generous he would recognise and acknowledge that. What other Minister has even bothered to try to come to grips with the problem?


Mr Ruddock —If you had been here for my speech you would have heard me do so.


Dr THEOPHANOUS —Then why has the honourable member moved this amendment?


Mr Ruddock —Because it is true.


Dr THEOPHANOUS —The honourable member is attacking the Minister on the amendment. The fact of the matter is that the Minister and the Government have, for the first time, taken up these issues in a serious way. The shadow Minister, who is also the Deputy Chairman of the Joint Standing Committee, makes recommendations in the Committee which are then adopted by the Government as a means of dealing with the problem. Then what happens? After that process he comes in here and says, `You are not doing enough'.


Mr Ruddock —That is right.


Dr THEOPHANOUS —What nonsense. The honourable member knows very well that a lot has been done in these areas in very difficult circumstances.


Mr Ruddock —That is right. A lot has been done but not enough.


Dr THEOPHANOUS —The problems are difficult. For example, in the case of marriage and de facto relationships, as the honourable member for Dundas well knows, it is not just a question of getting tough; it is also a question of balancing that toughness with respect for people's fundamental human rights. In this country we respect the right of marriage for genuine marriages. We have to balance that against the cases where the marriages are not genuine, when they are used for fraudulent purposes in order to get around the Immigration Act.

  If anyone in this chamber thinks that it is a simple question to make that determination, he has not studied the issue. As the report makes clear, it is a very complex question; it involves a complex set of determinations which the immigration officer has to make and there is a procedure for appeal in certain instances. We have tried to balance—as we have throughout—these complex issues concerning illegal immigrants and their rights on the one hand and the rights of the Australian community on the other; people making claims on the basis of change of status for marriage; and the current and very difficult problem concerning the huge blow-out in applications for in-country refugee and humanitarian determination. This is the problem we have to address as a Parliament.

  The report of the Committee on this matter will be presented in a few weeks time. I have appealed to people from all sides of the Parliament to come forward if they have any good ideas or if they know of ways and means of dealing with this very difficult issue, including the honourable member for Dundas, who is the Deputy Chairman. If he has good ideas he should come forward with them, rather than coming into the chamber and saying, amongst other things, that the Government has failed to establish a fair and expeditious refugee determination process. What nonsense. When the problems were identified the Committee moved quickly and made an interim recommendation to the Minister. As a consequence, the Minister made a set of determinations of the Committee's recommendations in relation to the Cambodian boat people and others—


Mr Ruddock —Is it a crisis or not?


Dr THEOPHANOUS —Of course there is a crisis; everyone recognises there is a crisis. In fact, the Minister said that there would be a crisis. If the honourable member remembers, some time ago the Minister said that there would be a crisis in this area as a result of what had happened in relation to the Chinese student problem.


Mr Ruddock —The Government's decision in relation to that.


Dr THEOPHANOUS —The honourable member has had his go. Why does he not allow me to say a few words without interruption? The fact of the matter is—


Mr Ruddock —I like your contribution when it is interrupted.


Dr THEOPHANOUS —The honourable member may not like my comments, because they effectively deal with the truth of the matter. We will be bringing down further recommendations dealing with the problem of the blow-out in the refugee determination process. The Department has been given significantly increased resources in order to deal with the problem but, as the honourable member for Dundas knows, we have certain international obligations which are insisted upon by the UNHCR. We are trying to clarify exactly the obligations under the UNHCR with respect to those matters. Do we have to treat even the most frivolous application in exactly the same way, through all of the processes, as we treat the genuine refugee cases? That is one problem.

  As I mentioned, the honourable member for Dundas has not come forward with any recommendations as to how we can deal with this problem; nor has he been very successful in working out ways in which, if he were the Minister, he would be able to deal with the matter. On the contrary, this is a difficult problem because, on the one hand, it is the requirement of international law with respect to the UNHCR; on the other hand, it is another matter trying to balance that—


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The time allotted for the second reading of the Bill has expired. The question is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.

  Original question resolved in the affirmative.

  Bill read a second time.