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Thursday, 7 November 1985
Page: 1768


Senator GEORGES(5.48) —I wish to speak briefly on the paper since the matter of illegal migrants has been raised. Although I do not suggest that we should in any way encourage people to come into this country illegally, or having come here on a visa or for some other reason we should not extend their stay and allow them to become illegal migrants, I think the matter should be viewed with extreme discretion and with some sympathy. I can understand why people desire to come here from places where there is less economic comfort, why they try to get past the barriers that we have erected against immigration, and why they endeavour to take short cuts. I agree with Senator Kilgariff that the short cut for one person makes it a long process for somebody else, and we cannot tolerate that. When this does occur and when there are compassionate grounds that become associated with those cases, I believe that they should be dealt with with sympathy.

I find it highly unacceptable that people who have committed this offence should be treated as criminals and be held as criminals. I believe that if there is to be some holding of people to prevent their absconding, they should be held not in criminal sections of gaols but in some other place. They should know that some progress is being made to have remand centres properly established for the holding of people and their families in reasonable comfort until such time as they are allowed to go back under their own efforts or are deported. Recently we looked at the conditions in the Brisbane gaol where people were held under warrants for being illegal immigrants. We discovered that because of the lack of facilities there they were held alongside people who were in that place because they had committed serious criminal offences. Sometimes illegal immigrants could remain in the gaol for five to six weeks. I suggest that should not be permitted. No person should be held in those conditions in custody because he or she has extended a period of stay or has endeavoured to come to this country with a desire to stay here. In Queensland the situation is so poor and conditions so overcrowded that I suggest to the Department that no person should be held in prison. In the circumstances the risk should be taken that the person may abscond and it may be difficult to pick him or her up again. Nevertheless, I believe that rather than imprisoning such people, we should give them that benefit and we should take the risk.

As long as we keep up these very restrictive barriers, people will endeavour to get to Australia illegally. People will go to all sorts of extremes to enter Australia. I know of one person who, having been refused entry to Australia, went to Papua New Guinea, paddled across to the Thursday Island group, came across to the Queensland coastline and then travelled all the way down to Brisbane, only to be arrested and placed in gaol. I would have thought that we should have allowed a person with that sort of determination to stay. There are people with tremendous determination and desire to come here and to stay. The sooner we extend and relax the quotas, and take more people despite our unemployment position, the better. We would not then have to face the problem of dealing with these people in such a harsh way.

Question resolved in the affirmative.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! There is only one minute left to discuss Government papers. I think it would be pointless to start discussion on a new paper in that time, so I shall rule that the time for consideration of Government papers has expired. We will now proceed to the consideration of other General Business.