Topics: visa cancellations, Senator Fraser Anning, Saudi Arabian woman detained in Thailand
DAVID COLEMAN: Australia is a welcoming nation and we welcome visitors from all parts of the world, but we will not tolerate crimes against Australians. Today we're announcing that in 2018 more than 800 non-citizens had their visas cancelled in Australia. These crimes included offences against children, armed robbery, assault and a range of other very serious offences. In the past five years, this Government has cancelled 4150 visas of non-citizens who have committed serious crimes in Australia. We have zero tolerance for such behaviour, and it will not be tolerated.
Now, in a comparable period under the previous government between 2009 and 2013, the Labor government cancelled less than 600 visas under comparable circumstances under Section 501 of the Migration Act. The current government - the Coalition government - has cancelled more than 4,000 visas, some six times as many as the previous government, demonstrating the strength of our commitment to keeping Australians safe. Now, when parliament resumes, legislation will be debated which will further strengthen these provisions, further strengthen the character test under the Migration Act, and which will give further guidance to decision-makers to take a very, very strong view on non-citizens who have committed serious crimes in Australia. It's a very simple message: if non-citizens commit crimes in Australia, they should expect to have their visas cancelled.
Now, I want to make some comments as well, about the events at St Kilda on the weekend. The racist conduct that was seen at St Kilda on the weekend was absolutely disgraceful and there is no place for it in Australia. The use of Nazi salutes and Nazi imagery is absolutely abhorrent and it is against everything that Australia stands for. We are a welcoming nation, we are a nation that welcomes people from all parts of the world and we judge people in Australia based on the content of their character and what they do in Australia and not where they come from. For a group of people to behave in this way in St Kilda, and to make use of Nazi salutes and other imagery is disgraceful, it is against everything that Australia stands for and it is absolutely appalling conduct. Now, we will not let a tiny group of racists divide us as a nation, we are the most successful migrant nation in the world and we will continue to work together as Australians to continue to build the most successful multicultural society on Earth. Thank you.
QUESTION: Should Fraser Anning have attended that rally?
DAVID COLEMAN: Well no, Fraser Anning absolutely should not have attended that rally. No sitting member of parliament or no member of parliament should have attended such an event. It was an event that contained disgraceful racist behaviour and it is absolutely morally wrong for that individual to have attended that event. They have obviously sought to gain publicity by doing so, but the people of Queensland will render their judgement on that conduct.
QUESTION: Just to be clear, do you condemn Senator Anning attending the rally?
COLEMAN: Absolutely. The individual should not have attended that rally. That rally contained disgraceful racist behaviour. There is no place for that sort of behaviour in Australia. We are the most successful migrant nation in the world. There are millions of people in Australia who have contributed enormously to this nation, who have come here from all corners of the globe, and that is a very good thing, it is part of our strength as a nation. We welcome people here to Australia regardless of their cultural background. What we care about in Australia is how you behave, we care about your conduct and your character, but we welcome people from all parts of the globe, people of all cultural backgrounds and all religions. The use of Nazi imagery at a rally in that way was absolutely despicable and has no place in Australia.
QUESTION: Is it acceptable that Senator Anning charged taxpayers to attend the rally?
COLEMAN: Well Senator Anning, his decision regarding that rally was his decision and he must describe why he did that. In terms of the expenses, that's obviously a matter for the Parliamentary Expenses Authority, and it's a matter for that individual to justify his own behaviour. All members of parliament are accountable for their behaviour - that's how it should be in a democracy - and that includes that individual.
QUESTION: I believe Senator Anning claimed that migrant problems, particularly around Sudanese, was the reason for him claiming- saying that he should attend. Is there a problem with Sudanese migrants in Queensland and other Australian States?
COLEMAN: We welcome people from all backgrounds in Australia. We have a non-discriminatory migration policy. We have people in Australia from all corners of the globe; people who hail originally from Europe, from Asia, from the Middle East, from Africa, from pretty much everywhere on this planet. And that is part of what makes us such a strong nation. We are not about judging people based on where they come from. We are about people contributing from all corners of the world. People are welcome in Australia so long as they are willing to abide by Australian values, by the rule of law and indeed to behave in a peaceful way. Now, if people commit crimes, then they should be prosecuted regardless of their cultural background. It doesn't matter what background someone is from, the law applies equally to everyone. That's a fundamental principle of our society, and that's how it should be.
QUESTION: How do you assess any problem posed by Sudanese gangs in Brisbane, specifically where Senator Anning has focussed his attention?
COLEMAN: Well, any issues in relation to crime, regardless of who is involved in the crime, are a matter for the local police forces. And those police forces obviously should police crime regardless of who is involved in the crime. So, that is a matter for the police. But the issue in relation to the St Kilda rallies was that we saw despicable racist conduct, we saw the use of Nazi imagery in a way which would be sickening to all Australians. Australians have fought on the battlefield to defeat the evil that was Nazism. That contribution to the success of the Allies in World War II is one of the great moments in Australian history. For any Australians to embrace imagery related to Nazism is absolutely disgraceful and there is no place for that in Australia.
QUESTION: But have you heard of any issues with Sudanese immigrants in Queensland?
COLEMAN: Well look, as I said, any issues in relation to crime should be dealt with by the local police force and they should, as they are, be dealt with regardless of the background of people. The same laws apply to everyone in this country, that's one of the principles of our nation and that's how it should be.
QUESTION: Do you think Senator Anning is trying to create controversy to help his re-election?
COLEMAN: Well look, obviously there may be people who seek publicity and they may be successful in doing that. But what matters is what's right and for somebody to attend a rally of that nature is disgraceful. There is no place for that in Australia. We are a proud democracy and a proud nation of people who have immigrated from all corners of the world. There are millions of Australians who have done great things after immigrating to this nation and people are welcome here regardless of their background, but what matters is how they behave in Australia. Yep, last one.
QUESTION: Just on one other topic. A Saudi Arabian woman has been detained by Saudi authorities in Thailand on her way to seek asylum in Australia. How concerning is that?
COLEMAN: Look, I wouldn't comment on that matter specifically. As you know, we generally do not comment on specific matters involving individuals and we'll adopt that policy here as well.
QUESTION: Would the Australian Government consider lobbying on her behalf?
COLEMAN: Look, as I say, it's not something that I would go into and I'm sure you'll appreciate that it is the better approach in relation to these sorts of matters not to comment on them publicly.
QUESTION: And you may have already mentioned this at the very beginning, but how many criminals whose visas have been cancelled have been deported already?
COLEMAN: Well that happens very frequently, 800 were cancelled in the last calendar year, a significant number of those have been deported already. But there is a process that can take some time. About one-third of the people who are in immigration detention in Australia at the moment, about 400 people, are people who have had their visas cancelled due to their - having it cancelled due to serious criminal conduct and those people leave over time. So about a third of all people in immigration detention. This is a really, really important policy of this Government. More than 4,000 people having their visas cancelled over a five year period because they committed serious crimes in Australia. If you're a non-citizen and you commit a serious crime, you should expect to have your visa cancelled and you should expect to leave Australia. Thanks very much.