MPI – Immigration Detention
Mr PITT : The previous speaker, Mr Laxale, had quite the jumble of talking points. We’re here talking about national security and keeping Australians safe, but the focus from those opposite is always on the Leader of the Opposition or the shadow Treasurer. How about you just tell us what it is you intend to do? That is what the Australian people want to know.
I got some correspondence to my office while I was here in question time, and I’ll give a short summary of that correspondence because this is what the Australian people are saying. A constituent of mine wrote: ‘I was at one of my craft groups this morning. We don’t talk politics, but this morning everyone was absolute disgusted about murderers and rapists not only being released from prison but being given aid. We have people here, in this particular town, living in cars. Do they get this assistance? Do they get this accommodation?’ In my view, that is the view of the majority of Australians, and this is what they are concerned about.
These are individuals with records such as this: a violent sex predator with a record of attacking elderly women in their own homes. Another individual, sentenced to seven years and six months, pleaded guilty to two counts of rape and one of sexual assault. Another individual was jailed 10 times over more than 20 years for drugs, driving and assault offences, including a 2½-year prison term for dangerous driving. More than 80 of these individual have been released.
I was here for the contribution from the Minister for Home Affairs, who said, effectively: ‘We can’t do anything, it’s a decision of the High Court. What can we possibly do?’ The first thing that the minister can do is improve the level of communication between the House of Representatives and the Senate, and between individuals in the Labor Party and the other individuals in the Labor Party, because we have a Minister for Home Affairs who is saying nothing can be done and yet we’re hearing reports that legislation is planned, intended and will be delivered. Today is Wednesday. This court decision was last Wednesday. The parliament has been here all week. In fact, last night and tonight, the Labor government’s priority is extended sittings for the closing the loophole bill so they can deliver on union commitments.
We are here, ready, willing and able, and if those in the government are not able to draft the legislation then we are very happy to assist. Give us access to the resources, give us access to the Public Service and we’ll put it together. That’s fine! There are always options. This is a matter of incredible importance to the Australian people. The idea that it’s being used for some political purpose is nonsense. These are 80 hardened criminals who should not have been released; that is the bottom line. As the government, those opposite have tough decisions to make. There are times when you have to move quickly and we stand ready to do that—as we’ve said, as the Leader of the Opposition has said and as everyone on this side has said, ‘If we need to be here, we will be here.’ It can be adjusted, it can be fixed, it can be changed; there are ways to manage these issues. We’ve seen this previously: when something important in terms of national security, it’s dealt with—the parliament works together. If we look at the issue earlier in the year around the former Russian embassy lease site, the opposition worked very closely, and swiftly, with the government to bring forward a resolution because it was in the national interest. There is no way these individuals should be in the community. This government have the opportunity to act, and should have acted on Monday morning at 10.00 when the House opened. They had from Wednesday to Monday to draft legislation, to prepare, to consult with the opposition and to talk to individuals. This happens all the time in government. It is part of being in government: you must deliver when necessary, and this is absolutely necessary right now.
So I say to those opposite: forget about attacking the Leader of the Opposition and ask the Treasurer to stop worrying about what it is the shadow Treasurer does or doesn’t have to say. Question time is there to answer the questions put to you, and it’s not just us who are asking these questions—these are questions from the Australian people, who are genuinely interested about their safety and the safety of their families from individuals they know should not be in the community. It’s not now, not last week, not next week, not even today. Those opposite have the opportunity while the House is sitting to swiftly resolve this matter. They have all of the resources of the Public Service, they have all the budget that is necessary, they have all the advice that they need to find and they have all the specialists and expertise. That’s part of being in government. Take the opportunity to address this issue, because the Australian people demand it of you. It is not going away, it needs to be addressed and it needs to be addressed now. It should have been done two days ago—shame on you for not acting! You should move, and move swiftly.