reforms to migration law to prevent violence against women and children

Tuesday, 15 February 2022

Mrs WICKS (Robertson) (14:47): Thanks, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs. Will the minister please update the House on how the Morrison Government is reforming migration law to prevent violence against women and children, and is the minister aware of any alternative approaches or views?


Mr HAWKE (Mitchell—Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs) (14:47): I thank the member Robertson for her passion and concern for the protection of women and children against family violence and recommend her work to the House. It is true that the reason the government has pursued a change to the character test through legislation over the last 1,200 days is, in principle, primarily to protect the Australian community from harm. In particular, it is to protect women and children from family and domestic violence in the remit that is given to the federal government—that is, the protection of our borders, the issuing of visas and the movement of people in and out of Australia. We have a particular responsibility—and it is a point that advocates for domestic violence victims make over and over again—to make better laws, to work with the judiciary, to change the system, to make sure that, wherever we have power and responsibility, we deal with the reasons family and domestic violence happens against women and children primarily.

It is not enough to talk about these things; you have to do them. That is why we have had a bill in front of this House for 1,200 days. For 1,200 days the government has said: give us more power not just to deal with the horrible crimes against women and children when they happen but to prevent them from occurring in the first place by denying visas offshore. In response, yesterday we heard a little bit about how Labor haven't been doing their homework. And the response from Senator Keneally today again highlights that they have no substantial opposition to this bill. She said today that if she were immigration minister—Senator Keneally is Labor's spokesperson on national security and the protection of women from overseas criminals—she would use section 116 of the Migration Act to deport permanent visa holders. She said that I, as minister, should have been aware of that and should have read that section of the act. There is only one problem with what Senator Keneally said publicly just before question time today: if she kept reading the act, she'd have got to section 117 of the act. Section 117 says that that power can't be used in the case of a permanent visa holder. It cannot be cancelled under section 116. That's millions of visa holders. So I say to Senator Keneally: you've had 1,200 days to do your homework on this bill. Understand that we are serious about the protection of Australians from serious crime and serious criminals. Read the act properly and you will understand this is a good law. The Labor Party should be supporting it. It is inexplicable that the Leader of the Opposition has signed a deal with the member for Melbourne in relation to this bill to oppose these laws when you consider what they'll do to protect Australians from future harm and future crimes.

The SPEAKER: The Manager of Opposition Business on a point of order?

Mr Burke: It's on direct relevance. How on earth can this claim, which is untrue, about some signed deal be directly relevant when it's not true? You have a minister making it up. You have a minister—

The SPEAKER : The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. The Manager of Opposition Business knows full well that that my role is not to say what is correct and what is not. I am going to give the call to the minister. There are six seconds to go. The Leader of the Opposition on a point of order?

Mr Albanese: The minister just made an accusation, and the context of the accusation is about violence against women and children—

The SPEAKER: No. The Leader of the Opposition—

Mr Albanese: That's the context.

The SPEAKER: If there's been an unparliamentary remark, you are entitled to—

Mr Albanese: It is not on parliamentary language, Mr Speaker. He has made a clear allegation that a signed deal has been done relating to violence against women and children—

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. Let me just say this: if an unparliamentary remark has been used then a member is entitled to rise in his or her place and raise it. But to raise that something is factually incorrect is not an appropriate point of order during question time. Members know when there is an appropriate time for that to take place.

Mr Albanese interjecting—

The SPEAKER: No, you don't have the call. I haven't given the Leader of the Opposition the call. The minister has the call.

Mr HAWKE: The truth is that Labor and the Greens voted against this bill. I don't believe, and Australians don't believe, the member for Melbourne is just someone that he used to know. (Time expired)