Senate debates

Monday, 9 December 2013


Migration Amendment (Visa Maximum Numbers Determinations) Bill 2013; Second Reading

4:41 pm

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

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to table an explanatory memorandum relating to the bill.

Leave granted.

I table an explanatory memorandum and seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

In a time when global asylum applications are at their highest in more than a decade this Government has decided to put a freeze on protection visa grants. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has reported that there are more refugees and more people who have been forcibly displaced today than there have been since 1994.1 Rather than shutting the door on vulnerable asylum seekers, Australia should be offering sanctuary to those who have been determined to be in genuine need of protection.

The implications of this freeze are devastating. Refugees, including women and children who are being detained in immigration detention, some for more than four years, those who are currently living on bridging visas with the right to work and those who are subject to community detention will never be granted permanent protection in Australia. The freeze will condemn these refugees to a life of fear and uncertainty.

The directive from the government has come in response to the Senate disallowing the reintroduction of Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs). The Australian Greens oppose the use of temporary protection visas and believe that those who are determined to be in genuine need of protection should be granted permanent protection in our country.

We know that in 1999, when John Howard introduced TPVs, they had no deterrence impact on boat arrivals. In fact, they had the reverse effect, with more refugees arriving by boat in the two years following the introduction of TPVs then in the two years prior.

What is evident is that rather than deterring people from seeking asylum in Australia by boat, the introduction of TPVs changed the demographics of boat arrivals from single men to women and children. Because TPV holders were excluded from being able to bring their family members to join them, desperate families opted to travel together in search of safety in Australia. It was in this context that the SIEV X tragedy occurred, with the loss of 353 people including many women and children. By taking away family reunion, the Government creates a greater incentive for people smugglers services which in turn results in increased deaths at sea.

There are currently over 30,000 asylum seekers who will be affected by the Minister's decision to freeze protection visa grants. The freeze is retrospective and therefore the cap of 1650 Protection Visas issued for this financial year has already been reached, leaving those who have already been determined to be refugees in a state of limbo and prolonged uncertainty.

By definition, refugees are people who have fled war, torture and persecution. The very nature of TPVs leaves open the possibility of returning vulnerable refugees to the dangers they fled from. This constant state of uncertainty and long term separation from ones family causes increased stress and anxiety which leads to severe mental health conditions for those enduring the policy. This is the worst possible situation for those wishing to build a new and secure life in Australia.

Australia is a caring nation and we should uphold our reputation by offering permanent protection to refugees who we have been assessed to be in genuine need. Favouring ongoing punishment over protection should not be the Australian way. These people deserve the permanent protection of our borders not a life of uncertainty and oppression.

The Bill

Migration Amendment (Visa Maximum Numbers Determinations) Bill 2013 amends the Migration Act 1958 to allow Section 85 (Limit on Visas), to be disallowable.

Currently, under section 85 of the Migration Act 1958 (The Act), the Minister may determine the maximum number of visas that can be granted in a particular subclass in any specified program year. While all ministers have discretionary powers within their portfolios to make decisions without the need to put something before Parliament, any decision that would place indeterminate freeze on a person's livelihood, is hardly something that can be left to the Minister of the day. The Greens believe that the setting of visa limits should be accountable to the Parliament and therefore seek to amend the Act to allow instruments made under Section 85 of the Act to be disallowed.

The amendments proposed by this Bill seeks to override the determination made by the government on December 2nd that places a cap on the number of protection visas for the 2013-1014 financial year.


The amendments proposed by this Bill quite simply seek to ensure that decisions made by the Minister on visa limits are accountable to the Parliament, rather than at the discretion of the Minister.

I commend this Bill to the Senate



I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.


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