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Second Reading: Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Repudiation) Bill 2023
The Australian people are seeing in real-time what a chaotic, disorganised and incompetent government we have. The contrast could not be more stark between the matters that were spoken about just a few moments ago by the Leader of the Opposition—when he spoke about the methodical and systematic way in which, under the previous coalition government, these matters that are so critical when it comes to keeping Australian citizens safe were dealt with by the previous government and, as a consequence of that methodical systematic approach, the necessary measures were taken to keep Australian citizens safe, to manage in an appropriate way our migration processes and to do the things that Australians expect that a competent and capable government will do—and what we've seen from the present government, which has been mystifyingly incompetent.
The decision of the High Court to which the bill before the House today responds, the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Repudiation) Bill 2023, was made on 8 June. That is six months ago, give or take, and only now is the government bringing forward legislation. It was shared with the opposition for the first time on Monday of this week, and all of a sudden they are in a desperate rush to get it done. They've had months in which they've sat on their hands, and now there is a desperate rush to get this done. One of the consequences of the desperate rush, with the evidence suggesting that the drafting of the bill wasn't completed until, as I understand it, sometime over the weekend, is that this bill does not actually deal with the circumstances of Mr Benbrika, the person after whom the High Court judgement was made—one of the parties. It does not deal with historical cases like those of Mr Benbrika and will only deal with future terrorism cases. That is but one of many serious problems the opposition has identified with this bill in the brief time that we have had to consider it, including the brief time we've had to consider the revised version of it that was provided to the opposition this morning.
I think another very obvious question that Australians might have is: if the government had not been caught flat-footed in relation to another High Court case, leaving it to release into the community a number which now stands at well over 100—indeed, 141—hardened criminals, if the government had not been caught flat-footed without a contingency plan and had not been so embarrassed by being seen by the Australian people to have comprehensively mismanaged these issues, I think there's a very real question as to whether they would have bothered to bring forward the bill that is before the House today, because it's impossible to avoid the conclusion based on the facts and on what we've seen of the conduct of these two hapless and hopeless ministers, the Minister for Home Affairs and the minister for immigration, that they had very little idea of what they would do. Based on the facts and on what we've seen of the conduct of these two hapless and hopeless ministers—the Minister for Home Affairs and the minister for immigration—it's very hard to avoid drawing the conclusion that they had very little idea of what they would do. They have been sitting there in a reactive mode rather than working proactively to identify the steps they need to take to identify perfectly predictable potential scenarios, such as the High Court coming down with particular decisions. Instead of preparing in a proactive fashion, they've sat there in a flat-footed fashion and they've been caught out, and the Australian people have seen just how incompetent this government is—just how reactive this government is. What is very troubling is the scale of the threat to public safety as a consequence of what we have seen happen, with some 141, to date, hardened criminals released into the community. The contrast between the calm, sober, methodical management of these issues when the current Leader of the Opposition had ministerial responsibility and when other ministers had responsibility under the previous coalition government and the chaos that we are seeing now is very striking. It should trouble, I think, every Australian.