Thursday, 16 August 2012
Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2012; In Committee
I move Greens amendment (1) on sheet 7268 relating to statutory review:
(1) Schedule 1, item 25, page 12 (after line 16), at the end of Subdivision B, add:
198AI Review of regional processing
(1) The Minister must cause an independent review of regional processing under this Subdivision to be undertaken:
(a) within 12 months after the Minister first designates a country under section 198AB; and
(b) at least once every 12 months after the first review is undertaken under this section.
(2) A review under this section must include a review of the protection and welfare arrangements that each regional processing country has in place for persons taken to the country under section 198AD.
(3) The Minister must cause a copy of a report of a review under this section to be released publicly within 14 days after the Minister receives the report.
We have just spent all evening realising what flaws are in this piece of legislation. The minister has identified that, despite the fact that a designated country would require guidelines as to how people would be treated while they are in these places, basic understandings of protections, there is nothing in this legislation that actually requires that to happen. It is absolutely fundamental that we know just how this legislation is impacting on the very, very vulnerable people that it is inflicting pain on.
This amendment allows for a review into how regional processing under 198A actually works. Under this amendment the minister must cause an independent review of regional processing under this subdivision within 12 months after the minister first designates a country under section 198AB and at least every 12 months after the first review is undertaken under this section. A review under this section must include a review of the protection and welfare arrangements that we have just seen this government vote down. We have just seen the government and the opposition vote down the protection arrangements that the Houston report said had to be included. So this review is important. We have seen all of these 'trust us' statements made in this chamber tonight, that even though these protections will not be in the law, because we have just had the government and the opposition vote them down, we are being asked to trust the government that they will happen anyway.
So this review will include an analysis of whether those protections ever actually happened. There should not be any reason that the government would not support this amendment if indeed they believe all their own rhetoric. If indeed the minister is right about all of the protections, all of these agreements to treat people consistently with international law and human rights standards, including no arbitrary detention; if the processing in offshore facilities includes appropriate accommodation, appropriate physical and mental health services, access to education and vocational training programs, application assistance during the preparation of asylum claims, and an appeal mechanism for those who do not get a positive response in the first go; if the minister is right that there will be monitoring of care and protection arrangements and that there is a proper provision of case management assistance—if the government believe that all of these things will happen—then there is no reason why they will not agree with this review.
The minister, under this amendment, must cause a copy of the report of the review under this section to be released publicly within 14 days after the minister has received the report. Currently in the Australian detention network, the Commonwealth Ombudsman is required to do reviews within the Australian detention system. He is required to ensure that the case load of individual asylum seekers is being managed properly. Every six months, if somebody has been in detention for longer than 12, he needs to review their case and provide a report to the minister. For anyone who has been in detention for longer than two years, the Commonwealth Ombudsman is required to release that report publicly.
This legislation, as tabled tonight by the government, does not require any of those checks and balances, so this legally binding review would require at least some transparency about how these offshore detention facilities are operating. As I said, if the minister is honestly trying to tell us that all of these things—even though we have just seen the government vote them down—will actually happen, there is no reason why the government should not agree to the basic transparency of a review of offshore processing facilities and how they are operating. I ask the minister: is this something that the government is prepared to accept—some basic transparency in how these facilities will operate?