Thursday, 16 August 2012
Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2012; In Committee
The 10 unaccompanied children who are currently on Christmas Island, who the minister has already said risk being deported to Nauru, are about to be given up on, left desolate and left on their own with no legal guardian. That is what this legislation will do. The High Court's finding that Australia's obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the refugee convention was inconvenient to the government, so it has decided: 'Oh, well, we'll just will change the law and strip those children's rights away.' This legislation is going to dump unaccompanied minors in a foreign country and no one has to take responsibility for it. They will be on their own. We have just heard from the minister that this government has no intention of putting the requirements of international legal welfare protections—basic rights that the Houston report says must be adhered to—in an offshore processing facility. Not only are we dumping these children with no-one to look after them, no-one to be responsible, no guardian—wiping our hands of them—we are dumping them in a place where we do not even have a guarantee that they are going to be housed properly. Let us remember that the minister said, only an hour or so ago, that she believed that dumping them in army tents was totally appropriate, that it was an appropriate way of housing refugees as required under the Houston report. The weasel words that are used in this legislation to get out of anything that has anything to do with the best interests of the child are just unbelievable.
I want to go to a particular point that the minister raised when answering a question from my colleague Senator Milne, that it was inconvenient that the High Court decided that actually Australia did have obligations to children who are unaccompanied minors, those poor orphaned children who have arrived here without any family. So not only was it inconvenient for the court to rule that they had rights as that somehow did not fit with the government's policies, we have just heard the minister say that protections that are in the best interests of the child are 'not sustainable' and so it is 'not sustainable' to act in the best interests of the child. That is what this legislation is doing and that is what the minister has just said here tonight. Let the Hansard record stand: the minister has said it is 'not sustainable' for the government to act in the best interests of the child. Why didn't the immigration minister say that in his press conference on Monday? Because the government is determined to rush through this piece of legislation to trash anything that is in any way a protection or a safety net for unaccompanied minors, to not let anybody know about it and to absolutely trash any obligation as to these children and any legal recourse that any of these children have—and the whole reason is that it is 'not sustainable' for the government to act in the best interests of the child! Australians would be horrified to know that this government is putting forward legislation in such a callous, cruel and utterly illegal way because it is 'not sustainable' for our government to act in the best interests of the child. This is absolutely shameful.