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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4352 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

It is no exaggeration to say that Australia has been built on immigration. It would be fair to say that Australia serves as a beacon to the world on how to successfully run an immigration program. Australia is one of the few countries in the world that have operated a planned immigration program for over 50 years.

We have an ongoing humanitarian program which provides for 12,000 new faces a year. Ms Tucker, in her motion and her speech, ignored that record. The allegation seems to be that we should adopt a humanitarian approach, which you can read to mean that we do not have a humanitarian approach. The record would show that that part of her motion is not true.

To have a managed immigration policy, you need a sensible border control policy. What has been ignored here tonight is the serious situation that faced Australia in August 2001. During the first three weeks of August, 1,200 unauthorised individuals arrived by sea. Credible intelligence reports indicated that something like another 5,000 persons were signed up to come to Australia in this way. Beyond that, there was potential for another 8,000 unauthorised arrivals in Australia, growing to something like 12,000 in 2002-03, according to intelligence reports. That is the size of the entire humanitarian resettlement program for the year. In other words, people with the resources to pay people smugglers would crowd out people languishing in refugee camps, whose claims for humanitarian resettlement may be greater.

There is a refugee queue. In places like Kenya-and I know Ms Tucker is interested in southern Sudan-refugees with no means to buy places with people smugglers have existed in their thousands for about seven years. Mr Pratt worked with Muslim Kurdish widows in the mid-1990s. I have heard him speak about this. They had absolutely no means to buy passage and were unable to be integrated locally. What are we doing to help them?

People smugglers organising unauthorised boats understood the importance of getting their customers, as they call them, into Australian territory. Once here, the customers would have access to the very generous refugee program, with the expansive interpretation by the courts of the refugee conventions.

The federal government had to do something about the problem, which threatened to undermine the humanitarian resettlement program and the immigration program. The measures are well known to us. They include preventing visa applications from unauthorised arrivals at places like Christmas Island, the power to move people to declared countries, the power to detain vessels, a new offshore humanitarian visa system to encourage persons who had sought, or who could seek, effective protection in a country, and minimum sentences for people smugglers. It is fair to say that the measures were effective in what they sought to do.

The curious thing about mandatory detention of unauthorised arrivals is that it was put in place by the federal Labor government in 1992. As Mr Pratt said, it remains an integral part of any sensible immigration policy and is used by most countries around the world. The policy allows for central identity, security and health checks to be performed. It also allows you to locate people who have no right to remain in Australia,.

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