Zali Steggall MP speaks against amendments to the Migration Act

26 March 2024


It is deeply disappointing from the government and from the minister to find ourselves here now, debating over a motion to essentially fast track this legislation with no delay, no scrutiny, no debate. This is a legislation on which we were briefed by the minister only a couple of hours ago but has numerous questions and detail in respect there was no answer from the minister. There are grave questions about the consequences and the far-reaching implications of this legislation and yet, you are here, asking this place to fast track it without even 24 hours to consider it. It is outrageous and incredibly undemocratic. It is an absolute parody of what this place is supposed to be about. In relation to looking at what good legislation can do, having the time to consider whether it has unintended consequences. I would look at the back benches behind you, minister, and I can imagine everyone is squirming because for everyone, this is uncomfortable. This is not part of the Labor policy platform. As the leader of the Greens just said, the question of mandatory sentencing is incredibly significant. This is an incredibly important step that has to be done very carefully with a lot of scrutiny for unintended consequences.

The risk in relation to domestic violence, people that are maybe through domestic violence abused, homeless, find their way in a position where they could be subject to these provisions. There are so many areas that need to be looked at. For people not understanding the consequences of this legislation, this is far-reaching. This is asking people you either co-operate with your removal or we will take action against the entire country, anyone wanting to come from that country. Now, in terms of precedents for this, the minister indicated we have the UK, they passed similar legislation two years ago but haven't really applied it so we have nothing to go by. Or the US, so we're in a situation of completely new territory and you are saying, without proper scrutiny or debate, we should all just consider and vote on this legislation. It says something for the opposition, I should say, that they are also willing to contemplate that this debate goes forward. I have not heard any speakers yet in relation to slowing this down. But for all of the backbenchers of Labor, is this really the values you subscribe to? Is this what selling your soul to a party means, you will not have a voice when it comes to very important debates of being able to give proper policy and legislation true scrutiny? Will you go back to your communities and say,' we waved this through with, what is, 40 minutes of debate? ' no opportunity for consultation, proper implications legislation to be truly considered. I have a lot of time for the minister but I am deeply, deeply disappointed with your actions today in trying to push this through with such a short timeline. If this is such a problem, it should have been worked on for a long time. It's not going to only apply to those that were released as a direct consequence of the High Court decision. This will apply to many more people that are in this kind of situation, for whom bridging visas - who are here under bridging visas. We know that the previous Administrative Appeals Tribunal was incredibly bad and slow and ineffective in dealing with a lot of migration and refugee cases and so, in a situation now where you've acknowledged that as a government, we have passed administrative review tribunal legislation to have a new body in place and yet, you are implementing legislation that will capture many people that fell foul of the AAT and will be caught by this legislation. And it's just so far-reaching, it's hard to comprehend that this is the path, this is the legacy you as a government want to leave behind. Your legislation doesn’t even include a mandatory review period, in the 30 minutes to spare we've had since a briefing with at least been able to move, present some amendments to at least ensure there is a review process but I'm sure the answer from government will be,' we haven't even had time to consider your amendments but we couldn't possibly support that’ but here we are being asked to suspend standing orders and put in place a joke of a debate, this is a parody of what democratic debate should look like. And shame, shame on every member of government for supporting this, for coming into this place, for doing something that is deeply, deeply undemocratic.



I rise now because it's incredibly unclear, even on the government's current procedure, whether we are going to get an opportunity to move amendments, in consideration in detail, to this appalling legislation, or even get an opportunity to be heard, because the government has decided, in an autocratic way, that everything will just be gagged at 1.40 this afternoon. So, on legislation that we received at 8.45 this morning, with very limited time to consider, we're now in an incredibly truncated debate. As to all the protestations from the coalition, the opposition, please: support an adjournment motion. If you do not, it is hypocrisy to come in here complaining about not having enough time to consider legislation.

Let's be clear, for the Australian people, what this legislation will do. It is knee-jerk legislation that criminalises refugees who've already been through a broken system—thank you to the opposition!—and, in many cases, it fails to recognise people's legitimate refugee claims, and, potentially, forces people to return to countries where they face persecution and even death. There is no recognition that a lot of people who will be subjected to this have extensive and deep connections to Australia. It is completely unnecessary for this legislation to be pushed through.

We know that there are many people that will be caught by this legislation. It goes vastly beyond just the knee-jerk reaction to the High Court decision. It's an extraordinary step to exclude entire nations from access to visa applications, and to harm families, individuals, businesses and communities. Fundamentally, these laws place Australia at even greater risk of forcibly returning refugees to harm, including many refugees failed by the fast-track system which the Labor government agrees was unfair and flawed and yet is continuing with an unfair, flawed process and system.

We must do better. Bring on the next election as soon as possible, because the Labor government will certainly be judged on the legacy of this.

Now, because I have no idea if I will even have an opportunity to move the consideration in detail, I'd like to point out to the Australian people and the House that I will seek to move an amendment to at least try to protect women who are facing domestic violence and homelessness situations, who have increased vulnerability to deportation. Women who are on a removal pathway and who are experiencing domestic violence and abuse might find it challenging to comply with directives aimed at facilitating their removal from Australia. Obtaining a passport or attending meetings will prove incredibly difficult. There's a fear of seeking help, and the requirement for mandatory cooperation with removal efforts and the associated penalties for noncompliance will deter women in abusive situations from seeking help. We already know that CALD women face additional barriers to reporting, partly due to their fears in relation to their visa status.

We hear a lot from every party, especially the Labor Party, around domestic violence, raising the rights of women, and yet they are trashing them again with this bill—unless the government is going to agree to the amendment, at the very minimum, to ensure that people who are subject to domestic violence and homelessness are going to be protected from the provisions in this legislation.

It has an impact on legal proceedings. You are trying to circumvent the role of the High Court. Women facing domestic violence are often required to navigate legal processes such as applying for protection orders and custody of children. The legal process through the Family Court can be lengthy and result in orders that children remain in Australia to have contact with a parent or citizen-parent, whilst the mother—most likely the primary carer—will face expulsion from Australia. This legislation entitles you to require her removal while the children are ordered by the court to stay here. Are those seriously your values, members of the ALP? Seriously? Is that what you go to your communities with and say, 'That is what I'm going to do if you put me in government'? There are no safeguards.



I second the motion moved by the Member for Melbourne in relation to suspending standing orders to enable the proper conduct in this place. To be very clear about what happened today, the government moved a very specific procedural motion to limit debate on the second reading of a controversial bill to 40 minutes. It then also included in that motion, procedural motion, very specific provisions for questions to be put at consideration in detail stage with an express provision for the opposition to be able to put its question and then a separate question be put by crossbench members. Now the second reading was not concluded in accordance with that motion. It went beyond that 40 minutes. The opposition was then given the call to move its amendment and consideration in the detail stage and the record indicates that was at 1:45 pm at that time. But upon seeking the call following it should a division be issued I was overlooked by the chair and the chair proceeded to go straight to that. At no point was there a question of a member of government standing to say that I was unable to seek the call from the chair to move my consideration in detail amendment because of there being a decision to revisit the 1:40 pm timeline. It is clear that when the opposition was given the opportunity to move their amendment past those provisions, the government had waived the provisions of that motion. And it does give rise to a question, I would say a legal question, of that once the government allowed the opposition to move their amendment at consideration in detail at 1:45 p.m., it had departed from the motion, its own procedural motion at that point. Unless there was intervention by the government to deny the call being granted to me, to be able to move my consideration in detail, I respectfully put it was not within the power of the Speaker to ignore my request for the call to move that motion because no-one from government sought to deny me that call by saying that the motion limited it. So it was a procedural question here that really raises questions of integrity of the chamber and the ways this works, and I think it puts the role of the Speaker in a really difficult position. Because the government, and I totally do not wish to cast any negative imputation on anything in relation to the role of the Speaker, but it has put the role of the Speaker into a very difficult position as to the proper management of operation of the house by the conduct of the government itself. It has failed to implement its own procedural motion and then allow for proper debate to occur. Just so we are really clear, the consideration in detail amendment that was proposed and circulated was to provide that women at risk or suffering from domestic violence abuse could not be provided a removal order by the minister. Now everyone in this place stands up time and time again to say that they stand for fighting against domestic violence, protecting the rights of women, and yet here we had a really real case, an opportunity to make sure that law was not going to be a complete overreach when it comes to women and children in situations of domestic violence and abuse, and the government did not comply with its own motion to allow me to move that motion. That is why we should be suspending standing orders and revisiting the question. If legally there is a question that we have departed from that procedural motion, then the provisions of the standing order should then be regenerated. The question of reconsideration, standing order 154 for example, specifically provides that before the third reading of abilities, a member may move without notice that a bill be reconsidered in detail in whole or in part by the house. I sought to do that, again trying to go by the book, relying on these standing orders, but what was really made clear today, with how the house operated and the really difficult position the chair was put in, was that it appears to be a free for all. I mean, it appears to be that the government can move a procedural motion that makes specific considerations and provisions for the debate and the process for a bill, rightly or wrongly of course, I will put aside my concerns around the curtailing of debate, but then depart from that without amending the motion and put the whole consideration, I would say, in question, as to whether or not the legitimacy of the vote that even occurred. The only way that can be fixed is by supporting this motion to suspend orders, return to the question, enable standing order 154 to be engaged so that the bill can be reconsidered and consideration in detail can properly proceed. Thank you.