Mr THISTLETHWAITE (Kingsford SmithAssistant Minister for Defence, Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Assistant Minister for the Republic) (16:04): The opposition talk tough when it comes to border security and safety, but the reality is that they are full of hypocrisy when it comes to this issue. If you want to see that, look no further than this headline: ‘Libs set free man charged with assault’. This goes to the case, which has been raised by the shadow minister, of the shocking alleged assault of a Perth grandmother in her home. It is one of the NZYQ matters that the opposition has been raving on about for months and blaming the government for.

Well, the facts in this matter tell a very different story. The facts in this matter demonstrate the hypocrisy of this opposition when it comes to border security and safety. The person charged with this assault was sent to prison in 2018 for drug possession. These are the facts. In February 2019 his protection visa was cancelled. In June 2019 he was released from jail and transferred to immigration detention, but in January 2020, when the opposition leader was the Minister for Home Affairs, his visa was magically reinstated and he was released from immigration detention. Those opposite go on about the conditions of this person’s release. But guess what? When the Leader of the Opposition released this person from immigration detention, do you think he put any conditions on that release? Not one. Do you think that there was any monitoring—ankle bracelets or anything like that? Not at all. Do you think there was any concern for community safety from the then home affairs minister and now Leader of the Opposition? Not at all. This person that was released by the Leader of the Opposition went on to commit further horrific crimes.

The Leader of the Opposition and the shadow minister for home affairs have been banging on about this case for a number of weeks now, seeking to blame the government and to whip up hysteria and fear within the community. Here are some of the quotes that have been used by the Leader of the Opposition to whip up that hysteria:

Well, under a Coalition Government, that won’t happen. Under a Government I lead, as I demonstrated when I was Minister for Home Affairs, we make the decisions to kick these people out when they’ve caused harm against Australian citizens. I won’t tolerate these people being in our local community …

Well, it turns out that he did tolerate these people being in the local community and he did allow these sorts of crimes to happen. The question that the Leader of the Opposition has to answer is why he released this individual that went on to commit this horrific crime—allegedly. On 3 May 2024, the Leader of the Opposition said:

It was negligent, reckless, hopeless …

…   …   …

If the Minister doesn’t have responsibility here, I don’t know who does.

The question for the Leader of the Opposition is: why didn’t you take responsibility when you released this person from immigration detention?

On 30 April 2024—he wasn’t done yet—he kept going: ‘They’re not Australian citizens and they should have been deported. This crime potentially could have been avoided. I don’t for the life of me understand why these people are still on the street.’ Well, you should know because you put them back on the street when you were the home affairs minister. On 11 May 2024, he went on: ‘I don’t think he should have been released without wearing an ankle bracelet. Now the minister has to take responsibility for that because they set up this process. We’ve said if this were us we would take responsibility for it.’ It turns out that you didn’t take responsibility for it, Leader of the Opposition, and you did release this person with no conditions and no monitoring.

On 10 May 2024—and this takes the cake in terms of comebacks—Senator Paterson said, ‘Peter Dutton hasn’t released hardened criminals into the community.’ It turns out that he has and that that quote was not true. So don’t come in here and seek to whip up this hysteria about safety in the community and about a threat to safety of Australians due to asylum seekers being released from immigration detention. That was done under your government and it was done by the Leader of the Opposition. That is hypocrisy at its highest order.

They make a big thing about protecting borders and being tough on border protection, but the reality is very far from the truth. When it comes to the integrity of Australian borders, we know that the former governments—the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments—had a shocking record and were basically asleep at the wheel. When we came to government we made sure that we did a check of the integrity of our border protection system, in particular our immigration and visa system. There were a number of independent inquiries that were commissioned by the Albanese government. We got esteemed Australians, such as Christine Nixon and Martin Parkinson, to have a look at what was actually going on when it came to border protection, and the findings were shocking. What they found was that under the previous government there was serious and systemic abuse of our migration system that led to serious crimes, including sexual slavery and human trafficking, being committed.

The Nixon inquiry found there was dysfunction and poor management of the immigration system by the former government; in particular, abuse of the visa system. Much of that was occurring when the Leader of the Opposition was the Minister for Home Affairs. It was on his watch. He was the one who was asleep at the wheel and allowing these shocking conditions to persist. We saw abuse of offshore processing, a regime that was basically being used as a slush fund by suspected criminals. There was shocking abuse of contracts—in particular, contracts awarded to allegedly dodgy individuals—under their watch. It was complete abuse of the migration system. Martin Parkinson’s review of the migration system found that ‘almost a decade of wilful neglect’ occurred under the watch of the previous government.

That is the record of the previous government when it comes to border protection and immigration. They ran a system that was dysfunctional and neglectful. They were basically asleep at the wheel. We are putting in place measures to ensure we restore integrity to our migration system and to the protection of our borders. That will take time, because it’s a big job to fix the dysfunction of the previous government, but we are making those investments and making sure that we have integrity in our border system.

We’re also making investments to ensure that we keep Australians safe here in their communities. A big focus of this government is ensuring safer communities for all Australians. We’ve made some big investments in a safer future for Central Australia, in the wake of some shocking examples of crime in the Northern Territory, with a $250 million investment in programs there. That comes on the back of a $109 million investment in justice reinvestment programs to reduce crime recidivism amongst particular individuals.

We’re also ensuring that Australians of all faiths have the opportunity to live and practise their religion free of violence and discrimination, with $50 million for the Securing Faith-Based Places grants program. In the wake of 7 October, those shocking attacks in Israel, we acted by providing $50 million worth of funding for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and the Muslim community to ensure that they were supporting their communities and running programs to reduce hate, violence and discrimination. Even in the online world many Australians are now being attacked and facing harassment and intimidation. The government are acting to ensure that we keep Australians safe in the online space as well by reviewing Australia’s online safety laws.

We have a suite of policies aimed at restoring integrity to our migration system, protecting Australia’s borders and keeping Australians safe, and ensuring that we keep Australians safe in our communities with all of these programs. We do this through policies, and many more of those will be outlined in the budget tonight. The question for the opposition is this: you talk tough, you come in here with your rhetoric, you seek to point fingers, but where are your policies? Where are the policies that will keep Australians safe in the future? You won’t hear anything of that from any of their speakers today.

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