Second Reading – Migration Amendment (Bridging Visa Conditions) Bill 2023
Mr PITT: What we see here is an indication of the inability of this Labor government to actually defend the Australian people and their interests. Our job in this place is to act in the interests of the Australian people, not others. It’s their safety and protection. To give you an indication of what the Australian people are thinking, this was correspondence I received in my office yesterday from an individual. I’ll give you the summary version. They said: ‘I was at one of my craft groups this morning. We don’t usually talk politics, but I can tell you everyone was disgusted about murderers and rapists not only being released from prison but being given all of this aid at a time where we have people who are living in their cars.’
The response so far from the Albanese government has been completely inadequate. Let’s look at the timing of the response. This was a decision that was taken last week. With the resources of the government—the Australian Government Solicitor, the Public Service and all the available extra support that can be provided given the government has access to the Treasury and the budget—in the time between last Wednesday and 10 o’clock Monday morning, this legislation could easily have been drafted and been drafted in consultation with the opposition and its shadow ministry. There were no restrictions on that. There was no inability for the government to come forward with a proposition and have that discussion. And, of course, we stood ready to work with the government on what is a matter of public interest—protecting the safety of the Australian people, every single individual. Instead, we have a situation where not only have 80-plus criminals been released into the community; we hear this morning there could be another 300-plus. This is an outrageous proposition.
The High Court has made a decision. The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs was in the chamber yesterday effectively saying in the matters of public importance debate: ‘There’s nothing we can do here.’ And yet, overnight, legislation—the Migration Amendment (Bridging Visa Conditions) Bill 2023—has been rushed into the parliament which could have been developed much earlier. It could have been introduced on Monday. It’s been rushed in. It was provided to the opposition at quarter past seven this morning and now we found out that we can’t even put forward amendments which we believe would actually make it a better proposition, would strengthen the proposition and would help defend the Australian people, who are at risk. They are at risk from these individuals—there’s no doubt about that whatsoever.
The government extended the sittings on their closing the loopholes bill, which is a list of union demands. That was the priority during the week. There were extended sittings of the House of Representatives to deal with those demands, but not to deal with this. This issue is front of mind for the Australian people. They are struggling with the cost of living and are bogged down in their own issues, but they know that this matters.
This parliament deals with difficult issues. That is why we were elected. We were sent to this place to represent the interests of our communities and the Australian people. The Labor government rolled this through this morning with such little notice—it was 7.15 am—for our people to get across this bill without the ability to consult with others. It is just outrageous. How is it possible, firstly, that it has taken this long and, secondly, that it is being done in such a short time that we have little time to consult with individuals who could put forward changes? We now find that that is blocked and we can’t even do that. So the Labor government, firstly, failed to act; secondly, said yesterday that there was nothing that could be done here; thirdly, rolled up today with this proposition; and, fourthly, said the opposition can’t put forward amendments, changes and better propositions. This bill will go to the Senate, where it will be debated and, as the Leader of the Opposition said this morning, we will attempt once again to put forward what we think are improvements.
Instead, we have an inadequate proposal to keep the Australian people safe. We have limited time in which to put forward amendments that we think will strengthen the proposal and the proposition in the interests of the Australian people. What will happen this afternoon or tonight? Who knows? Perhaps we’ll find that it is important and we’ll be back tomorrow to look at this again in the House of Representatives. What we do know is that this Labor government has its priorities wrong on this matter. The Australian people deserve to be protected. We are here to act in their interests. We are here to defend them. The decision to release these individuals has to be addressed and it has to be addressed now.