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MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE - Immigration Detention
Mr FLETCHER: We have seen this government engage in the extraordinary action of releasing 83 hardcore criminals into the community. That includes, we understand from what the government has had to say, three murderers—
The SPEAKER: Sorry to interrupt, Manager for Opposition Business. The member for Warringah, on a point of order?
Ms Steggall: There seems to be a misunderstanding. Today is the crossbench MPI.
The SPEAKER: It's my understanding that there was no crossbench MPI lodged. If there was—
Dr Ryan: There was an MPI lodged, Mr Speaker.
The SPEAKER: I'm advised by the clerk that the MPI was not lodged. Given that one has been accepted and that I have approved the MPI today, we will continue. I will investigate and report back to the member for Kooyong. I give the call to the Manager of Opposition Business in continuation.
Mr FLETCHER: We understand that three murderers and several sex offenders have been released into the community. The Solicitor-General told the High Court that those impacted by the decision included a number of people convicted of murder and serious sex offences against adults and children as well as drug offenders and people smugglers. It's known that those who have been released into the community include Aliyawar Yawari, a violent sex predator with the record of attacking elderly women in their homes so chilling a judge branded him a danger to the Australian community. Mohammed Rafiq was sentenced in April 2018 to seven years and six months in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of rape and one of sexual assault. Sirul Azhar Umar was convicted in Malaysia over the infamous 2006 murder of a 28-year-old Mongolian translator and model, Altantuya Shaariibuu.
It is for these reasons the opposition has been pressing the government to find out what its plan is in these circumstances to keep Australians safe. We've asked a series of questions of the minister for immigration and of the Prime Minister, and the answers have been deeply inadequate. The fundamental question that we have sought to get the answer to—and I want to commend the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow minister for immigration for the very important work that they've been doing on behalf of the Australian people—is: what is the government's plan to deal with this matter and, in particular, why had it not prepared for this scenario? Why had it not examined the options for legislation?
What is remarkable is that the Prime Minister has just been given an opportunity to calmly and rationally explain to the Australian people what he intends to do in relation to that problem, how he is directing his ministers to develop and introduce as a matter of urgency legislation so that this matter can be legislated as quickly as possible. The opposition is absolutely prepared to support the government in whatever way is necessary. We've indicated we're prepared to be here for whatever time it takes as soon as this legislation is brought into the parliament, because this is fundamentally a matter of the safety of Australians.
It is not a novel proposition that the laws governing the matters of immigration, including the treatment of those who have significant character issues, that there are challenges in the courts to these laws. Indeed, it happens on a pretty consistent basis. Any competent government, any competent minister or any competent Prime Minister with a passion and a commitment to keeping Australians safe—which is, after all, the very first responsibility and priority of the Australian government—would have had legislation ready to go so that, in the event that there were to be an unfavourable decision from the High Court, there were options available to keep Australians safe other than the course of conduct which the minister has evidently taken, which is simply to throw up his hands and say: 'I've got no other option. I am releasing 81 dangerous, hardcore criminals into the Australian community.'
Indeed, we know from his update to the parliament today that that number has now reached 83. We've sought answers as to why decisions were taken in relation to that group and not the remainder of the 91. We're still seeking adequate explanations on that. But, based upon what has been disclosed by this government to date, what is abundantly clear is that the government was caught flat-footed. It did not have a plan. Frankly, it is shocking that on a matter that is so fundamental to the safety of Australians that the government simply did not have a plan and is now being left to scramble.
We did not get any clarity from the Prime Minister in his remarks. The opposition gave him an opportunity to reassure the Australian people that there was a clear plan, that they were calmly dealing with it. Instead, we heard the Prime Minister using a fair bit of that time to simply engage in political attacks against this side of the House. He entirely failed to live up to the moment and provide Australians the calm reassurance that they would want to hear, that there is a plan to deal with these 83 hardened criminals who have been released into the community after all of the evidence that's coming out. This includes what we've heard from the Labor Premier of Western Australia. He said on radio yesterday that seven of the 32 people dumped at a Thornlie motel on Saturday have had reporting conditions imposed on them by WA police. But it does raise a broader question about the rest of them. We've seen serious reports in the West Australian newspaper about what's now occurring at locations where these hardcore offenders have been released into the community—drugs, alcohol and many other things. It's the absolute opposite of a clear plan to keep Australians safe.
This is occurring at a time when we are also seeing shocking threats to public safety in Australia. In the Melbourne suburb of Caulfield we've seen a highly provocative, dangerous and threatening demonstration by Hamas sympathisers, deliberately held outside a synagogue at a time when a service was underway.
On the evening of 9 October, in Sydney, we saw the disgraceful scenes on the forecourt of the Opera House when the Opera House was, as was entirely appropriate, lit up in the colours of the flag of Israel to express the solidarity of the Australian people with the people of Israeli after the appalling Hamas terrorist attack which saw some 1,400 innocent Israeli men, women and children murdered, appalling reports of atrocious brutality and well over 200 Israelis captured and now held in captivity in Gaza. What we need to see is those hostages released as soon as possible. Of course, Israel has an absolute right to defend itself.
This is touching communities all around Australia. In my own community, in my own electorate, Masada College is a remarkable school and contributes richly to our community. It's a very welcoming institution. I've visited it many times. As well as having a large number of Jewish children, it has children of Korean background, Chinese background and many other backgrounds sharing education, which is in the very highest traditions of not just the Jewish community of Sydney's North Shore but the Jewish religion more broadly. This fine institution recently approached a business seeking to hire some games for children. The owner of that business refused in appalling terms and then posted that on social media. I've spoken to the principal. It's understandable that that school is very concerned.
These are the kinds of safety issues which are threatening and causing great concern to the Jewish community around Australia, and I think, more broadly, they cause concern to the community when we see the kinds of demonstrations that we've seen. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, we need to see the Prime Minister provide a lead and keep Australians safe.