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LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE - 16/04/2010 - Anti-People Smuggling and Other Measures Bill 2010

Estimates & Committees
Sarah Hanson-Young 16 Apr 2010

Dr Biok -Senator, I suggest also that what would assist in saving people's lives-and I agree with you, I think that we need to do what we can to stop a lot of these boats from leaving-is to try to educate people in Indonesia and Malaysia and also to make their lives more worthwhile there. There is a lot of connection now between the Australian government and the Indonesian government. I deal quite regularly with people in the Indonesian Embassy and try to provide them with some training and assistance on refugee matters. If people did not feel that this was the only alternative, if someone could actually go to asylum seekers-and there are some wonderful human rights organisations in Indonesia-to educate them about the journey and what would happen at the end of the journey-that they would end up in Christmas Island-that would also have a very important impact. I think that is another way of looking at deterrence. Deterrence can also be providing information and education.

-In relation to the evidence about ASIO assessing everybody and coming up with zero security threats in terms of people who have sought asylum in Australia-my understanding is that there have only been five in recent months and they of course have been detained on Christmas Island. Putting that aside, the explanatory memorandum fails to acknowledge the big issue of how many people in Australia are by virtue of their aiding and abetting providing some type of material support to people smugglers, as opposed to those who are actually making money out of this, the people smugglers, those who are actually not based in Australia or Australian citizens. In fact these people are at the various points through which people travel. I fail to see how this bill is going to act as a deterrent to somebody who is operating their people-smuggling activities from Kuala Lumpur, for example. Do you have any information in relation to the stories of the people you work with to suggest that my reading of the lack of evidence in the explanatory memorandum of the bill would be somehow wrong?

Dr Biok -The ASIO checks would not necessarily show this up. Their numbers would not show up the people who have been refused. If somebody fails the ASIO check, then they are not granted a protection visa-

Senator Hanson-Young -I realise that.

Dr Biok -and then they go through to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and try and dispute-

Senator Hanson-Young -But ASIO's own evidence at estimates suggest zero in the last year. That is what I am saying. Obviously it is not those that are not released into the community, but those who are given assessment-and they have to assess everybody. My understanding from questions asked of ASIO directly is that last year, for example, the 2008-09 year, there were zero failures in passing the test.

Dr Biok -I am not aware of any. Certainly, I have sat in on ASIO interviews with my clients who have been asked about various things, including how they got here. Nobody would dispute that. Certainly the Refugee Council would not question that that is not a proper place for ASIO to be. I agree with you, though, that it is not the money and the people in Australia who are the problem with people smuggling; it is the emergence of criminal networks within our region. This is something that has happened over the last decade. It is something that needs a multilateral and multinational approach. It is something that I do not think this bill will have an impact on. By criminalising material support at the low level, that is who will be caught-low-level people. It will not have a big impact on it, unfortunately.

Senator Hanson-Young -Picking up on Senator Parry's questions around needing a deterrent to stop people from taking this awful trip across the seas, which is dangerous, and landing in the situation where they have perhaps been falsely promised some type of visa that they are not going to necessarily get-there are a whole lot of things they have to do in order to prove that they are in genuine need of protection-are you suggesting that, in this particular bill, there is really no deterrent because it is not focused on the right people?

Dr Biok -There is no deterrent. Regarding the material support provisions, that is not sending $500 to your family in Peshawar. That is not enough for somebody to be able to engage a people smuggler to get them by plane from Pakistan to Australia. There is a lot more money required. It is just going to get at people sending small amounts of humanitarian relief. The real deterrent is if there were greater cooperation between our law enforcement agencies and regional law enforcement agencies to stop this. It is very clear that you can travel around Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta and see these networks operating. It is something that the AFP and ASIO have to work with the Indonesian and Malaysian police on. That is where the greater deterrents would be. As said before, asylum seekers who are stranded for long periods of time need to have lives that are a little bit more worthwhile so that they can work and their children can go to school so that they are not marginalised and put into detention, both in Malaysia and Indonesia.

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