SPEECH: HOME AFFAIRS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (MISCELLANEOUS MEASURES) BILL 2018, CANBERRA - TUESDAY, 12 FEBRUARY 2019
TONY BURKE MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER
SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURAL AUSTRALIA
SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS
MEMBER FOR WATSON
HOME AFFAIRS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (MISCELLANEOUS MEASURES) BILL 2018
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, CANBERRA
TUESDAY, 12 FEBRUARY 2019
That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:
"(1) the House notes the statement of the Speaker in relation to the constitutional questions raised by message transmitted by the Senate in relation to the Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2018;
(2) the House, having regard to the fact that the public interest demands the early enactment of the legislation, refrains from the determination of its constitutional rights in respect of the Senate message; and
(3) the amendments be considered immediately."
Our moving of this is far from the drama we just heard from the Attorney-General about this being some constitutional disaster. Anyone who looks at page 859 of Practice will find an almost identical resolution moved under the Howard government—that constitutional radical, John Howard—because it is up to the House to determine whether or not it wants to assert its constitutional rights. That's clear in the advice. That's clear from the statements made by the Speaker. The House would be determining not to do so if this amendment is carried, as the Howard government did in November 1996.
The second issue that's referred to in the legal advice goes to the issue of whether or not, before this ultimately gets taken to the Governor-General, an appropriation would have to be made. For that reason, when we get to the next stage of the debate—and I'm referring to it simply because part of this amendment is that the amendments be considered immediately—the amendment that will later be used will contain these words: 'a person is not entitled to remuneration in respect to their position as a member of the panel'.
In doing that, the two legal issues that have been raised will both be dealt with. Now, I must say: if the government was so determined that this was a constitutional principle, why do you think the letter from the Attorney-General to the Speaker carried the final sentence: 'I provide the advice on a confidential basis for a limited purpose of assisting you in the consideration of the Senate amendments and would appreciate you not circulating it further'?
If the Attorney-General were confident of his arguments, he would never have put that in. But he deliberately thought he would play a game of gazumping everybody on the final day. It takes a special Attorney-General to be able to deliver a 15-minute speech on this issue and not once refer to whether or not people who are ill can get medical care, but it was not referred to once. I'm not going to delay the House a long time with this, but in the Attorney-General's speech he referred to the 1,200 people who drowned. I have to say that, whenever that figure is referred to, it should be added, every single time, that half of them drowned after the Liberal and National parties voted against the Malaysia outcome.
The member for Warringah has made clear that that was an error, but today's Prime Minister still stands by a decision that may well have been able to save not just one or two lives but half the lives that were lost. At the Press Club, he made a comment, something like, 'Oh, you can't cut the number in half.' Well, we nearly did, and it will always hang over the members of the Liberal and National parties who chose to vote against an outcome not because they were outraged by it but because they knew it would work. They knew it would work; that was why. They wanted to keep the issue running all the way to the election.
What is in front of us now allows us to make sure that, when people need medical care, the decisions around their medical care are made by people who are medically qualified. This legislation would not have been required were it not for the fact that those calling out, 'It happens now,' have taken case after case through the courts trying to prevent people from getting medical care. That's why we've got to this situation and so—
(Interjection) Mr Dutton: Complete rubbish!
Mr BURKE: 'Complete rubbish!' There's a refutation! You're doing really well there, Minister!
What we have in front of us now is a resolution, an amendment, to what the government has moved that does not in any way defy the information provided to the House by the Speaker, that allows the House to assert its rights in the same way that the Howard government did in 1996. It also deals with the other issue with respect to the Governor General and the appropriation through the amendment that will come shortly. Every legal issue raised by the Attorney-General has now been addressed. This all could have been done in an orderly way had the Attorney-General not been so determined to keep this secret to get the element of surprise.
When the way to deal with this is already contained within House of Representatives Practice, it doesn't take long to basically copy a resolution from the Howard government. I urge the House today to vote for the amendment, to vote for the motion as amended and to then vote for the amendments which will be used, because the difference they will make is simple: if someone is unwell they will be able to get medical care. When were we ever told that part of protecting our borders, as they say, was making sure that people who are unwell stay that way? When were we told that that was a principle?
When did it suddenly become a pillar of border protection that people who are unwell need to be denied medical care? The amendment will deliver nothing more than that. I urge the House to support the amendment and to support the subsequent amendments that would then be moved.