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Wednesday, 20 August 1980
Page: 529


Mr BRYANT (Wills) - The Parliament is now into its second day of the session and already honourable members are being asked to reduce discussion time. Although the Immigration (Unauthorized Arrivals) Bill is a relatively minor Bill, it deals with an important part of the Australian social system. I was intrigued when I started reading the Bill to notice that we are spelling unauthorised with a 'z'. Apparently my friend from Capricornia (Dr Everingham) is having a very great influence on the revolutionary intent of this Government and we are getting some spelling reform. I am not too sure that I agreed with the honourable member or whoever was responsible, but there it is.

I am wondering whether all of this is necessary. How many people are we really after? So far we have had 53 ships arrive in Australia. How many of the people on those ships have been involved in what I might call the vulture side of the refugee system? Are we not using a sledge hammer to crack a nut in this issue, and putting on the statute books a piece of legislation which I think could be best described as draconian and which could possibly give rise to an opportunity for the people who enforce the law to overlook the general principles upon which we ordinarily administer it. I do not like the idea of people being arrested on suspicion. I do not like the idea of courts of summary jurisdiction having some of the authority they are getting under this Bill.

I represent a very large migrant population. Therefore I speak with some sympathy about the difficulties of a person who does not know the language and who is faced with the possibility of being requested to explain exactly why he or she is here and so on. I want to remind all Australians who are very critical about the acceptance of refugees into this country, that basically we have all come here - our grandparents or our great grandparents- and found Australia a refuge. Some came to find it a prison, of course. A lot of people came here because it was a refuge. I am not speaking of them as refugees but they brought nothing here but themselves. They brought no documents; they did not need them. I suppose some people saw it as a promised land or a land of opportunity and now we face the refugee system.

The general details of this legislation have been discussed, I think, adequately here this afternoon and this evening. I think it is time that we tackled the heart of the matter, that is the governments of the countries from where the refugees come. The governments who cause the refugees to flow out of their countries are the villains of the piece. What was wrong with the Vietnamese Government that it caused this situation? You and I might disagree with that Government. I disagree with the Government of this country, but I do not propose to leave. What was wrong with the Vietnamese Government once it decided that it would be just as well off if these people left, that it did not negotiate with the various governments of the world and say: How do we do it officially? What was wrong with us that we did not at some stage say: All right, how do we establish a system which overcomes the difficulties of people such as these, if we are willing to have them in the country? I am willing, although lots of Australians are not. But if we were willing to have them here, why did we not get closer to the Vietnamese Government in this situation and say: How do we solve this matter?

I recognise that the communist governments of the world, like a lot of others- not all communist - would refuse to believe that people should want to leave the benefits of living under their government. The world is in a terrible state when there are one million Afghans as refugees in Pakistan; when there are goodness knows how many million or more refugees from various countries around the Sudan; when there are 800,000 people from Southern Africa and the Portuguese territories in Portugal; when there are I do not know how many Timorese scattered around the world in Portugal and here in Australia; and when there are millions in the Middle East. I do not know whether the corporate body of the world has tackled the problem. There are hundreds and thousands of refugees in South East Asia.

I am deeply sympathetic to the plight of the Thai Government, the Malaysian Government and so on, but the Thai people are the ones carrying the principal burden. I recognise that that is an enormous financial burden, an enormous social pressure and a great political difficulty for the government of that country. What have we done about it? We have taken about 23,000 people altogether, depending on who honourable members regard as refugees and who they regard as migrants. I do not know whether we have done more than we ought, but compared with the rest of the world- the half dozen countries such as ourselves, France, to a certain extent Britain, the United States of America and Canada- we have done a lot more than all the rest. What is wrong with them? The corporate body of the world has to use pressure on the home governments. Somehow this situation has to be stopped. I think this is the issue that is before us.

I support the legislation insofar as it pursues the vultures of the system, insofar as we can determine who they are, and insofar as we can determine whether it was a reasonable charge if they came from Vietnam. After all, people cannot travel from Vietnam to Australia by any means without paying some fare. There are so many rumours about the situation that I half believe them, but I have my doubts about most of them. I hope that we will take this to heart - not so much as a piece of legislation - and when its sunset time is up that we will let is pass into oblivion and try to do something else about the matter.

I am not happy about the power of the courts of summary jurisdiction. Under the provisions of clause 6(1) and so on a person can end up being fined $100,000 or getting 10 years in gaol. Clauses 7 and 18 are the same- $ 1 00,000 or 10 years, or both. A person may choose to be tried by a court of summary jurisdiction. Perhaps he will be tried by a single magistrate. He is strange to the country and its legal processes. The Minister may have arranged for that person to have the situation explained to him in his own language. But what does he really know about it?


Mr Graham - You would get a fairer go in Australia than you would get in Hanoi, anyway.


Mr BRYANT - Yes, one may. I will have to talk to the honourable member privately about this matter. My office is only three or four hundred yards from Pentridge Gaol and I have gone there to bail out people who have been treated with great injustice. It happens here. A person can be picked up for loitering because he cannot answer the police as he does not know the language well enough. He ends up in prison because he cannot answer questions in a court either. I put a lot of faith in the courts but it is not an absolute faith. I raise my objections - even though a person has agreed to be tried by the magistrate in a court of summary jurisdiction - to the fact that that magistrate is able to send a person to prison by his own, unaided judgment. I am for the jury system and I think that if we send people to prison it should be done by juries and nobody else. As I have said I strongly object to a magistrate being able to send somebody to prison on his own, unaided judgment which is, I think, the provision here, taking two or three different clauses and putting them together. A person can end up being fined $2,000 or spending a year in gaol. I want to make those points quite clear. I suppose I am speaking on the generalities of the matter.

I raise the point, as did my friend from Maribyrnong (Dr Cass), about the absolute necessity of being clear about the usage of language. On the whole I think Australia makes a better fist of this than most countries. I was intrigued when I looked at the Melbourne telephone book, for instance- I suppose the same principle seeps through to Sydney and other more benighted places - to see that five or six languages are used to explain how one works the telephone system. But I noted in a number of places in Europe that they do not do that. In Holland, for instance, if one cannot speak Dutch one has to guess how to find one's way through the telephone book, even though there are probably millions of people passing through that country every year who speak every language in the world.

There are one or two other matters that I would like to raise while the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr Macphee) is here. I refer to our rather patchy performance on refugees. There was the disgraceful episode in the not too distant past when two leaders of the West Papua freedom movement, having left their country found refuge in Papua New Guinea. They were put in prison there as illegal immigrants and, on being released in the end, had nowhere to go. They ended up in Sweden and this country befused to let them in. Why? We did not want to offend the Indonesians, I guess. It is a most miserable and craven attitude.

But I do say to the Minister that in whatever he does to influence, by whatever means he has, the system to assist us to put pressure on the guilty governments which have caused the refugee problem, he will have our absolute support. In the 25 years I have been a member of this Parliament, I have resisted what I regard as draconian legislation. I have grave doubts about many of the processes of the law in these matters, especially where it deals with people who are not in real contact with us by not speaking our language. As I say, I am not too sure that we are not creating a piece of legislation with dangerous overtones to pursue a handful of people who probably would be caught in some other way.

I just remind honourable members that we have a pretty wide area of freedom when we travel. We can fly to Germany and walk out of the airport to the freedom of Europe without even a rubber stamp being placed in our passports. It is true that we cannot stay for ever, that we cannot get jobs and so on. But I ask honourable members to think about getting out of Tullamarine and Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airports in the same way. I think we are too defensive about these things. I know that a lot of my colleagues worry a great deal about illegal immigrants coming to this country. All our ancestors came here without documents. They all came here to find refuge paying little heed to the people who already lived here. Therefore, I am not too sure that this is not an unnecessary piece of legislation and that there are not other ways of handling these problems. I hope that when the legislation comes to its sunset time it sets well and truly.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee

The Bill.







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