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Wednesday, 18 October 2017
Page: 7938


Senator McKIM (Tasmania) (17:51): I would like to speak on the annual report of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for 2016-17, and I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

The AAT is an independent statutory authority in this country, established by legislation of this parliament. One of the fundamentals of the rule of law, not only in our democracy in Australia but in democracies around the world, is freedom from capricious decision-making. The AAT, as part of the judicial and quasi-judicial system in our country, ought to be part of a truly independent decision-making process, which means ultimately that everyone who comes before the AAT or another arm of the justice system in this country is treated equally, and that's an absolute fundamental of the rule of law.

We know that this government has an ideological problem with the rule of law, and we've seen a significant erosion of the rule of law and a significant erosion of human rights and many other important rights under the tenure of this government. I'm ashamed to say that, in most cases, they've been backed in, in those erosions, by the Australian Labor Party in the parliament.

There is one particular piece of legislation—a piece of legislation which contains a number of amendments to various other statutes in this country—which highlights the ideological hatred of this government in regard to the rule of law, and in fact it set out deliberately to undermine the independence of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the AAT, of course, being the subject of the annual report to which I am now speaking. That of course is the piece of legislation that was tabled in the House of Representatives and then passed through the House which firstly sought to give the minister for immigration, Mr Dutton, the capacity to unilaterally override properly-arrived-at decisions of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. That legislation also did things like, for example, seeking to introduce a tertiary-level English-language-test requirement for people to pass before they became citizens of this country.

We know that the Liberal Party has stacked the ranks of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal with Liberal Party mates and, of course, that they cherry-pick cases and decisions of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to give to tabloid newspapers in a deliberate attempt to smear the AAT's reputation. The legislation that passed through the House of Representatives and has been comprehensively rejected by the Senate today is, of course, Minister Dutton's citizenship legislation. This is a fantastic win for multicultural Australia because, of course, the immigration minister, Mr Dutton, tried to tear down multicultural Australia with this legislation, to tear down our open and harmonious society and to rebuild Australia in his own hateful image. It was a proposal to take steps down a dangerous road towards a White Australia policy that most of us thought and hoped we had left behind many decades ago.

Today Mr Dutton has failed. He wanted to stop thousands of men, women and children from feeling like they are full and permanent members of our community and to stop them from taking that step which would have helped them make such a massive contribution to our community as migrants have done through the history of our country. He failed because tens of thousands of Australians stood up against him and joined with many of us in this place to stand up for multiculturalism and fairness. It's a great day for multiculturalism in this country now that legislation has been rejected by the Senate and taken off the Notice Paper. What we have demonstrated together is that the things that unite us as a country are far, far greater than anything that might divide us.

I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted.