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Friday, 2 December 1983
Page: 3245

Senator MISSEN(2.18) —Mr President, I make some comments on this amendment to the motion that the report of the Committee of the Whole be adopted . I am glad that the Senate is not insisting on the amendment to the Migration Amendment Bill that was carried some little time ago. I expressed then great doubts about the fuzziness of the expression of the amendment and about the question whether these particular examples should be picked out for resurrecting discretion for the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs over deportation. I am glad that we are not insisting at this stage on the amendment carried at the Committee stage.

I must say at this report stage that I have some reservations about another part of the amendment, too. In regard to part (b) of the amendment, the reference to sections 78 and 81 of the Crimes Act, there is validity for expressing the idea that they should be attended to and should be included. I remind the Senate that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr West) , on 16 November 1983 when debating the Senate's amendment had this to say:

Why include all those sections--

that is, the earlier sections included in the Crimes Act-

of the Crimes Act and leave out sections 78 and 81 which relate to espionage offences? I simply express surprise that seeing Opposition senators had the numbers during the debate, and if they felt this matter was important, they did not send it here as an amendment. I would have been inclined to accept it if they had, but they did not; they left it out.

Irrespective of whose job it was to prepare the Bill and to propose matters and amendments, surely it is clear that the Minister recognises that there is certain validity in this matter being considered and, as Senator Martin said, being considered fairly urgently.

I express some reservations in regard to part (a) of the amendment if it were to be read literally. It wants the consideration of sections 'to include references to sections 28, 29 and 30 of the Crimes Act 1914 as grounds for deportation'. I have many reservations about certain provisions of the Crimes Act. It seems to me that the Crimes Act is in need of very urgent reconsideration in many ways. Much of it has been put together in a patchwork way over the years. Much of it represents certain illiberal eras in our history. I am not sure that there are not some unwise provisions in that Act. Perhaps they are mitigated by the sense which governments have to not prosecute on literal offences under the sections. But the three offences that Senator Martin suggested should be included are all offences against the Government. One wonders why offences against the Government would necessarily have greater importance-giving the Minister that wide discretion to deport, which many have found unsatisfactory in the past-just because they are offences against the Government. Surely there must be some better rationale for any decision to resurrect the ministerial discretion in this area. I certainly think they should be considered and where they are serious infringements, perhaps that is a proper ground. For example, if we take the three offences that were mentioned, one refers to interference with any political right. That can be very important. But it could refer to a drunk outside a polling booth who punches the nose of someone who is going in to vote, so that that person is carted off to hospital and cannot vote.

Senator Martin —You do not seriously suggest deportation, do you?

Senator MISSEN —I would have felt that the honourable senator's interjection would be that surely the Minister, using his discretion, would not deport in that case. I recognise that the point I am making is answerable on that ground. But the senator suggests giving into his hands an area which may be minor, may be on the borderline, or may be major. It may be the case that references to those sections ought to deal with important infringements that show that the person is not fit to be a citizen of or to live in this country. The same thing could be said in regard to the destruction of Commonwealth property-it could be minor or major-and the seizing of property. All offences that might happen under those sections ought not necessarily be ones that resurrect the Minister's right to remove someone who has been in this country for 10 years.

Senator Martin —That would be true also of section 81.

Senator MISSEN —Yes. I think the whole question ought to be looked at. I am glad that the Human Rights Commission is looking at these matters. The mere fact of a conviction against a particular section might not in itself be adequate. That was the problem in regard to the amendment which we moved in relation to trafficking in dangerous drugs. The point I raised then was that the crime of trafficking in dangerous drugs could be minor or major. I raise this question as being a consideration that should be looked at. I hope the Human Rights Commission will look at whether references to these sections should be in relation to convictions of an important nature.

I mention also that the Minister referred in the debate on the Senate's amendment to the criticisms made by the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills. I hope that a number of those criticims will be considered during the preparation of a new Bill which obviously will have to follow the whole consideration of the question by the Human Rights Commission. I just raise that fear that the mere importing of the whole of a conviction under one of these offences, when there may be much more serious offences, may lead to more anomalies than we have at the moment. With that I support the amendment, but I think it should be considered with some gloss on it as to how we will get some rationality into the whole of this area of discretion given to a Minister regarding deportation.