Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (12:18): I have an interest in this particular bill, the Migration Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014, as all senators will have. As an Australian citizen I am very keen to ensure that Australia continues to have a very beneficial and worthwhile immigration program, one that is well-ordered, fair, open and accountable, and one that allows people who fit with Australian law to come into our country. I have a keen interest in this subject.
In passing, I must say that Mr Morrison has done an absolutely magnificent job as migration minister and has put the Australian immigration process back on track so that we are able to bring in properly qualified people who apply for immigration to Australia in the appropriate way and meet the rules. Also, under Mr Morrison, now, we have come back to an ordered arrangement whereby those 13,000-odd refugees we take every year are chosen on the basis of their status under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. They are genuine refugees and we take them in an ordered fashion. Under the Labor regime, you were able to push in. If you had the money to pay someone to put you at the front of the queue you got in; but those who have been waiting for years in squalid refugee camps right around the world were left languishing thanks to the Australian Labor Party and the Greens political party.
The Greens were very keen to support the people smugglers. They were very keen to support those who had the money and the wherewithal to get a passage—an illegal passage—into Australia. In doing so, they put those who had been waiting for their turn to get to the promised land for years back yet another year. I give all credit to Mr—
Senator Hanson-Young: There are more refugees in northern Iraq right now—do you want them to just wait? You want them to just wait in line?
Senator IAN MACDONALD: I will not take all of that interjection, but I will say to Senator Hanson-Young with, perhaps, not a lot of respect: you are the people smuggler's friend. The people smugglers did their trade in Australia because the Australian Greens kept encouraging them. They kept saying to them, 'Come here and we'll look after your people. We'll give you a product to sell. Charge the $15,000 per person, put it in your pocket and we'll support you when you get to Australia.' It is absolutely disgusting. I have never been more disgusted about a policy issue in the Australian parliament than I am about the way the Labor Party and the Greens support the people smugglers taking $20,000 off supposed 'poor' refugees to come into Australia because they knew that once you got here you would be fine; whereas genuine refugees, who have been living in squalid refugee camps around the world for years are still waiting because people were allowed to jump the queue, thanks to the Greens and the Labor Party. I do not blame anyone trying to get to Australia. We are the promised land. We are a wonderful country. We are a very rich country. I can understand why people anywhere in the world would want to get into Australia, but we have rules. As John Howard said many years ago, 'We will decide who comes to our country and way in which they come here.'
Opposition senators interjecting—
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Macdonald has the right to be heard in silence.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: As I said, I congratulate Mr Morrison, who, I might say, was ably assisted by the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Senator Cash, who is doing an equally sensational job in bringing our immigration system back to order.
I chaired the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, which looked into this bill in some depth. I note in Senator Carr's opening statement that his colleague Senator Faulkner did not have much confidence in Senator Carr's ability to handle this immigration question, and Senator Carr had to reply to Senator Faulkner: 'I have read the bill. I can now explain to you what it is about.' Apparently he could not do that in caucus yesterday. Good on you, Senator Carr. I hope Senator Faulkner is now happy with your management of the portfolio on behalf of the opposition. I must say I am always confused about who in the Labor Party is dealing with this. At estimates Senator Singh seems to take the lead role, and she seems to know a little bit about it and is reasonably confident. Senator Jacinta Collins seems to know quite a lot about it and makes some very intelligent and worthwhile contributions to the deliberations of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, which deals with all of these immigration matters. Whether it is Senator Singh, Senator Collins or Senator Carr, I do not know. I do not really care, though it is important. The most important part of Senator Carr's speech was that he, as the shadow minister, and his party will be supporting this bill, and I am pleased about that.
I want to refer very briefly to a couple of issues. Senator Carr has gone through some of the technical details. The second reading speech goes through them in some detail as well.
Senator Kim Carr: At length!
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Senator Carr says he went through it at length. Yes, I sat here and listened to you, Senator Carr. I would not like to give you a test on it afterwards. You seemed to be reading someone else's work, but that is fine. Good on you!
Senator Polley: I rise on a point of order, Madam Acting Deputy President. All comments should be made through the chair not across the chamber.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you. Please continue Senator Macdonald.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: I am most contrite at referring directly to Senator Carr and I will not be tempted again. The application for further visas was the most substantial part of the bill, though there were a number of technical issues that Senator Carr mentioned. By majority the committee thought that processes like giving the minister the power to remove noncitizens in certain circumstances were good. The committee concluded that the department has the proper processes in place for ensuring that noncitizens with legitimate grounds are not returned in breach of Australia's international obligations. We supported the department's view that people should not remain on indefinite detention. They should be removed if they are not going to come here.
The committee accepted amendments set out in schedule 4 of the bill, because the committee thought that they were aimed mainly at retaining the interpretation of the act that Senator Carr meant prior to MZZDJ v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. A number of parts of this legislation simply return the interpretation to what everybody thought it was before the High Court made its ruling.The previous government worked on the basis that the interpretation we are implementing through this legislation is the right one. The previous government worked on that interpretation. It was in their time that this case went to the court. The court determined that the interpretation everyone thought it had did not apply. This legislation puts it back to what everyone always thought it was and intended it to be.
The committee recommended that the bill be passed but had a concern about individuals for whom someone else had applied for a visa when they were mentally incapable or too young to know what was happening. A particular case was brought out in evidence, where a young girl's family applied for a visa. She knew nothing about it. Later on, she married in Australia and applied for a visa but was told that she could not get one because of the one her family had applied for on her behalf years ago. The committee was concerned about that. The first recommendation of the committee's report recommended that:
… the Commonwealth government consider whether additional safeguards are necessary to ensure that children and people with a mental impairment are not unfairly prevented from making a subsequent visa application in circumstances where they are unaware of a previous application having been made on their behalf.
I am pleased to say, the committee having alerted the minister to that issue, that the minister has written to the committee indicating that:
I confirm that there are existing safeguards in place to address the concerns of the committee. These include my personal powers to intervene under Section 48B of the Migration Act to lift the legislative bar and allow further application for a protection visa. I also have powers under the act to intervene and grant visas to non-citizens if I believe it to be in the public interest. I am of the view that these safeguards are appropriate to deal with the very small number of genuine cases that may arise where a child or a person with a mental impairment has been significantly disadvantaged as envisaged by the committee.
And Mr Morrision—and I appreciate this and I am sure the committee do as well—indicated that Senator Cash, in her summing up, would be putting those words onto the record on behalf of Mr Morrison, so that they will be there for those who may have had a concern about this. With that, I certainly support the bill and I appreciate the Labor Party's support for it as well.