Parliamentary Speech: Migration Bill Debacle

House of Representatives on Tuesday 26 March 2024

Migration Amendment (Removal And Other Measures) Bill 2024

Second Reading

Check against delivery


Here we are again. The government is trying to bind up a weeping sore with rushed, reflexive legislation in a portfolio that they do not control, and they are panicked. You can sense the panic across the table. Fundamentally, this is about leadership, or rather the absence of leadership—which is really just another way of saying 'bad leadership'. We have a hapless minister for immigration presiding over a running debacle from the middle of last year in his portfolio, and time and time again we see this minister unable to impose himself on the situation.

Governing a country requires dynamic, responsive leadership not just at the top but across all portfolios, and we're not seeing that at all in the immigration portfolio. Sadly, what we see instead is a flat-footed, confused, panicked minister and this bill, the Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill 2024, briefed to the coalition at 7.30 am for just 20 minutes. That happened this morning, and the Australian people deserve better than this. They expect us to be transparent and accountable when we pass bills of this consequence. This government has been floundering since the middle of last year. They have been unable to anticipate events as they unfold, with grave consequences for the Australian community.

The handling of the NZYQ case was a case study in failed government. This government has had from the middle of last year, when the High Court had a directions hearing on NZYQ, and it was plain to see then that there would be issues with this case and others like it. Yet did the minister act? No, he did nothing—no legislation, no prudential action to protect the Australian community. At every turn it's been up to the opposition to lead the government. It was the member for Wannon, Senator Paterson in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition leading and guiding the government on legislative responses to the case at hand. The opposition has been leading. It's been the tail wagging the dog, which is frankly not good enough from this government.

Even then, the government failed to act. We saw 149 criminals, murderers, sex offenders and paedophiles, among others, released into the Australian community—you can't make this up. It's shameful. Now we see the government flapping in anticipation of the High Court ruling in ASF17, the case of an Iranian man who has refused to cooperate with authorities in Australia and been found not to be owed protection. If he is successful in his case, it could have implications for hundreds more people currently in immigration detention in this country who would be released into the community on the basis that their detention is indefinite because they refused to cooperate with Australia's efforts to deport them.

So here we are—new legislation, briefed this morning at 7.30 am for only 20 minutes, rushed. I'm confident the crossbench hasn't had a briefing. It's right that we call for a Senate inquiry immediately into this bill. You've got the Greens and their affiliates on the crossbench firing their cannons, and they have a point; there's been no due process and no Senate inquiry. But we part company there with the crossbench, because we believe in strong borders on this side of the House. It was the coalition who stopped the boats after the debacle of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years. And now Labor, since coming to power, are weakening our borders. That weakness is provocative, and we see that because we've seen 12 or 13 boats arrive on Australian shores since May 2022.

This bill gives the minister significant powers to direct cooperation of noncitizens in their removal from this country. There's power in this bill, but this bill can't substitute for strong prudent government and leadership from the Albanese government. This minister is weak; he's unable to impose himself on the situation, and he is now seeking to slam rushed legislation through both houses without an inquiry. It's not good enough, and the Australian people deserve better. They deserve transparency and accountability. The side of the House is calling for a Senate inquiry immediately because we all deserve better from this government.

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  • Jono Gunasegaram
    published this page in Latest News 2024-03-27 13:49:17 +0800