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Thursday, 4 July 2019
Page: 300

Mr DUTTON (DicksonMinister for Home Affairs) (11:19): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2019 is to reinforce the coalition's longstanding policy that people who travel here illegally by boat will never be settled in Australia. The Labor Party also say that they believe in this same principle.

The bill will amend the Migration Act to strengthen Australia's maritime border protection arrangements by barring illegal maritime arrivals transferred to a regional processing country from applying for an Australian visa.

The legislation will apply to people transferred to a regional processing country on or after 19 July 2013, including people who are currently in a regional processing country, have left a regional processing country and are in another country, are in Australia for a temporary purpose awaiting return to a regional processing country and who are taken to a regional processing country in the future.

This legislation, importantly, is consistent with the announcement by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who, when announcing the signing of the resettlement arrangement with Papua New Guinea on 19 July 2013, declared:

From now on, any asylum seeker who arrives in Australia by boat will have no chance of being settled in Australia as refugees.

When Prime Minister Howard left government in 2007 there were only four IMAs in detention. None were children. Without any policy foresight, Labor proceeded to tear down the successful Howard government border protection policies and this is what happened:

50,000 people arrived on over 800 boats;

1,200 deaths at sea (that we know of);

Over 8,000 IMA children were detained;

17 onshore detention centres and two regional processing centres were opened to deal with the influx of illegal arrivals.

All of this resulted in a $16 billion border protection blowout. And the taxpayer is still paying.

We must never forget the tragedy which happened at our border under the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments. And the parliament must act responsibly to legislate to ensure that it never happens again. This bill will form an important part of the government's people-smuggling deterrence messaging by sending a clear message that no-one who travels here illegally by boat will ever be settled in Australia.

The coalition is proud of its record at the border. The coalition has ended Labor's border chaos and restored integrity to Australia's immigration system using strong and consistent policies, including:

Turn-backs where it is safe to do so;

Offshore processing; and

Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs).

Under Operation Sovereign Borders:

There have been no deaths at sea;

We have closed 17 detention centres;

We have removed all the children from detention;

We have got all the children off Manus and Nauru; and

We have increased the humanitarian program to 18,750 places.

Operation Sovereign Borders has successfully halted the criminal people-smuggling networks by denying them a product to sell. Operation Sovereign Borders has strengthened our borders to ensure that any future attempts to reach Australia illegally by boat have zero chance of success. However, we cannot afford to become complacent and risk a return to large-scale people-smuggling arrivals when hundreds of men, women and children tragically drowned at sea.

This legislation contains a bar that will apply to all visas, both temporary and permanent. Any visa that allows transferees to come to Australia has the potential to provide a pathway to permanent residence. We cannot leave the door open for people smugglers to sell a backdoor passage to our country.

There remains scope for transferees to be granted a visa in certain circumstances. Under the amended law, the minister will have the discretion to lift the bar if it is in the public interest and allow a visa application to be made. The discretion may be exercised in a range of circumstances, such as meeting international legal obligations or where individual circumstances justify special consideration.

In addition, the bar will not apply to persons who were under 18 years of age at the time they were first transferred to a regional processing country.

This legislation sends a strong message to people smugglers and those considering travelling illegally to Australia by boat: Australia's borders are now stronger than ever.

I commend this legislation to the chamber.

Debate adjourned.