Senator Hollie Hughes – criticising the Government on national security, including regarding visas to people from Gaza

Photo of Senator Hollie Hughe
March 18, 2024

And Labor cancelled the visas they’d recently issued to people who were in the air and en route to Australia from Gaza only to reinstate some of them with no explanation.

Senator HUGHES (New South Wales) (18:07): Well, surprise, surprise! Quelle horreur! You give a Labor government a little bit of time, and the borders come crashing down around us. And, as usual, the hypocrisy of those opposite shines bright for us all to see. Of course, you will recall that, when the coalition was in government, we stopped the boats. We dealt with the offshore concerns of Manus and Nauru. But, just last month, we’ve already heard that 40 illegal arrivals were detained, with reports that there were some already being transferred to Nauru at the time media outlets were reporting on it. So it’s no surprise to anyone to hear that immigration detention is unravelling on their watch. This is the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government all over again—probably worse. When Labor’s incompetence last led to 50,000 people arriving on more than 800 boats and 1,200 people, including children, tragically dying at sea, all of that could have been prevented. But, unfortunately, Australians are being sadly reminded that they just can’t trust Labor when it comes to national security.

The fact is, as Peter Dutton has asserted, that Anthony Albanese has never believed in Operation Sovereign Borders. In the last budget, on a cumulative basis, $600 million was stripped from Border Force and from Operation Sovereign Borders. The ABF commissioner pointed out that resources and personnel were already being stretched, and that of course increases concerns about whether vigilant surveillance can be undertaken in the way that it was when we were last in government. We know that temporary protection visas have been abolished in just another example of train-wreck policy from this government. Australians cannot trust Labor to keep them safe.

But will Labor do anything at all about this? This government could actually try and be upfront with the people. What’s the plan to stop this from occurring? How do you plan to keep Australians safe? As Dan Tehan points out, the Solicitor-General, Stephen Donaghue, told the High Court on 8 November 2023 that up to 340 people in long-term detention could be released as a result of NZYQ. We don’t know if this is the number of criminals that Labor will release or if that number could be even higher. Is this Labor government giving up on deporting non-citizens who, because of their crimes, have forfeited their right to live in Australia? Will Labor promise to provide weekly updates on the number of criminals being released from immigration detention on their watch? Will Labor promise to be upfront and tell us when crimes are committed? When will Labor publish the immigration detention statistics for January and February? Why are those figures being hidden? What is the Prime Minister’s plan?

A start could be if the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs started attending his own briefings. It’s high time for the immigration minister to now guarantee he will actually attend legal briefings with his department, especially considering he’s hired an additional 46 lawyers. We know that the Albanese Labor government blame the courts and say none of this is their fault but we don’t forget—long memories here—that immigration minister Andrew Giles signed off on the legal facts that undermined Australia’s entire case. The same minister skipped three important legal briefings on this issue to instead travel overseas for a labour conference and to promote the Voice. Labor released 149 criminals on the wrong visa. Labor still has not applied for a single order under the preventive detention regime. And Labor cancelled the visas they’d recently issued to people who were in the air and en route to Australia from Gaza only to reinstate some of them with no explanation.

This is total incompetence at the highest level in such a crucially important space. This isn’t a game. This is about the sovereignty of our nation and about keeping our communities safe, including the lives of those who are arriving by boat. We cannot afford to be asleep at the wheel like this government clearly is. Instead of learning from the coalition on this issue or working to solve the crisis, Labor continues to make it worse.

Link to Parliamentary Hansard