Wed, 13 Mar 2024 - 17:09



Shadow Minister for Science and the Arts

Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy

Manager of Opposition Business in the House




13 MARCH 2024

KIERAN GILBERT: The government has admitted the wrong visa was issued to 149 freed detainees, but it insists it's just a technical issue to blame for the bungle and it won't affect any prosecutions. Let's bring in the shadow government services Minister the manager of opposition business in the House of reps, Paul Fletcher. This is another hiccup on this issue. But is it again a technical matter, as the government argues, and one which has really followed on from what was a High Court decision. The government's got to respond to it.

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, what it demonstrates, yet again, is this government's hopeless mismanagement of people who are in immigration detention. Of course, they're incredibly passive. The minister, Andrew Giles, following that High Court decision, and it took the opposition and Peter Dutton's experience as a former home affairs minister to insist on legislation to give the government new powers to deal with this cohort and those powers finally were passed with our support. And in fact, a lot of the drafting came directly from the opposition and from Peter Dutton. The minister seemed like a bunny frozen in the headlights. And yet again, they've made a significant error here. The consequence of this is that of the 149, um, their visas that they were issued once they were released into the community were not valid and need to be reissued. And a further consequence is that ten of them, I understand, who have so far breached their reporting conditions can't now be charged with that. So this is just another example of frankly hopeless mismanagement from this minister and somebody with a real lack of commitment to keeping Australians safe.

KIERAN GILBERT: This will obviously feature in a big way when Parliament returns next week. What will you aim to scrutinise the government over on this one?

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, we will continue to ask questions about what the government is doing in relation to this cohort. These are hardened criminals, rapists, murderers. Um, you know, the government has not yet used its powers, that we insisted should go into the legislation. And thankfully they agreed to that, uh, powers to go to a court and ask for these detainees to be redetained on the grounds of keeping the community safe. So we'll continue to ask questions about that, about the whole mismanagement of this issue by Andrew Giles as the Minister for immigration. Clare O'Neil is the Home Affairs minister. This has just been a litany of incompetence and mismanagement.

KIERAN GILBERT: On another matter, there's been some improvement, according to the government's latest numbers on, uh, scamming, that people are avoiding the online scams more effectively. But the assistant treasurer says Meta is not doing enough on its platforms to try and deal with these issues. It comes at a time when they're pulling out of the news bargaining code as well. Should there be a bipartisan effort now to rein in some of this big tech?

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, you know, Stephen Jones, when he was in opposition, talked a big game about how they were going to crack down on scams. You know, they only got around to issuing a paper with their proposals on this late last year, nearly a year and a half after coming to government. So a lot of talk, not much action. What we know, and this has certainly been my experience dealing with Meta and the other digital platforms, Google, Twitter now X and others working on online safety. We introduced the Online Safety Act, uh, under a coalition government, of course, we introduced the News Media bargaining code, which secured over $200 million in payments by, Meta of Facebook and Google, uh, to Australian news media businesses. Now, these big digital platforms don't want to incur any greater expenses than they're required to in complying with the law in Australia or frankly, anywhere else they operate. You've got to lean in, you've got to have a big focus on dealing with them and making it clear that it's a high priority for the government. Now, this was the approach we took.

KIERAN GILBERT: Should there be a bipartisan push on that?

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, our strong advice to the government is get serious about this. Let's see the Prime Minister focused on this. Let's see the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, focused on this. You know, we got the outcome we got out of Meta and Google because from Prime Minister Scott Morrison down treasurer Josh Frydenberg, certainly me as communications minister, we were very focused on this and that was made very clear to these companies. Now, right now we've got Stephen Jones talking about it. Uh, the treasurer nowhere to be seen. There needs to be more focus at a higher level from the government on this. These guys, you know, they're big, tough companies. They won't um, they if they can avoid having additional compliance obligations in Australia, they're very happy to do that So it takes consistent, sustained work. And so far, what Mr. Jones has achieved compared to his big promises on dealing with scams online, including on meta, it's been distinctly underwhelming.

KIERAN GILBERT: Paul Fletcher, thanks as always. Appreciate it.