Senate debates

Thursday, 16 August 2012


Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2012; In Committee

5:28 pm

Photo of Sarah Hanson-YoungSarah Hanson-Young (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I take issue with the minister's answer, and I see that it took quite some time to get the appropriate place in the bill. The truth of the matter is that this bill is not consistent with our obligations under the convention. All we need to do is to point to the articles in the convention that say that people should not be discriminated against by signatory states based on their mode of arrival. Yet this bill deals only with the expulsion, the transfer, of people who arrive here by boat.

There are other articles that are important under the convention that are not upheld by this legislation and that are, in fact, absolutely stripped away. As you very well know, Chair, this is the whole purpose of this particular piece of legislation. The minister spoke earlier in her summary of the debate on the second reading, saying that the whole point of this legislation was that the High Court had ruled out the transfer of refugees and asylum seekers to Malaysia under the government's people-swap deal. The reason the High Court ruled that out was that it would be in contradiction to the obligations that are currently in the Migration Act which import our obligations under the refugee convention. The whole point of this bill before us today is to circumvent the High Court's ruling, to make sure that this government can act outside of our obligations under the convention, to act outside of our obligations under international law.

I draw the minister's attention again to the comments made by the Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, overnight. He put a very clear proposition to the Australian government, reminding it of Australia's obligation under the convention. It is clear to everybody else that this piece of legislation is inconsistent with our obligations under international law. It is the entire reason the bill has been introduced. It is thumbing its nose at the ruling of the High Court and the protections that we are meant to uphold.

The government may very well like to physically transfer people offshore—out of sight, out of mind—but there is no ability under international law to transfer our obligations to people. Yet what the government has done in this bill is to strip out of our domestic law our obligations to people. In all of the things that the Houston report refers to that need to be considered, if we are to transfer people to a third country, whether it be for processing or not, there needs to be basic access to services, adequate accommodation, legal assistance and a guarantee of protection, yet none of that is in this bill. It has been absolutely stripped out in total contradiction to the convention.

My question to the minister is: is keeping people in army tents 'appropriate accommodation' as per the request of the Houston report?


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