Thursday, 4 December 2014
Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014; In Committee
I am not proceeding with amendments (2) to (7), (9) to (12) and (19) to (25) on sheet 7641, amendment (1) on sheet 7649 and amendment (8) on sheet 7641. The Greens oppose schedule 4 in the following terms:
(4) Schedule 4, page 57 (line 1) to page 89 (line 22), to be opposed.
This amendment deletes schedule 4 of the bill. Schedule 4 of the bill is what has been dubbed the fast-track legislation. This is the schedule that fundamentally changes the way people will have their refugee assessment made. The minister has argued that it creates a rapid process for asylum seekers who will be assessed under this caseload of 30,000. In reality, what this will do is strip away people's ability to appeal decisions and to ensure that the correct information about their cases is what is being used to make their assessments. It strips their ability to have their cases reviewed by the Refugee Review Tribunal. These amendments are all about the government trying to make it as hard as possible for somebody to be found to be a genuine refugee.
This schedule was the most fundamental concern of refugee advocates and lawyers who submitted to the Senate's inquiry into this piece of legislation. It is stripping away people's ability to ensure that they get a fair hearing, that after all these years of being locked in detention and then dumped in the community with nothing, people are being asked to be fast-tracked, shunted through a system where they do not have appeal rights, where they do not have the ability to make sure that the information they put forward is correct, and the minister himself is allowed to have such ultimate power that he can put big crosses next to these people's names and no-one is going to be able to have that reviewed or to know that those crosses that the minister has put next to their refugee assessment will be reviewed.
It is important to note that those who are found under this process to not be owed protection will become unlawful citizens—no right of appeal, no ability to check that the minister has made the right assessment. And they become unlawful citizens. And what happens then? Those people will go back into immigration detention, awaiting deportation. This whole argument that this is about getting people out of detention is actually a furphy, and this schedule exposes that. We know that over 60 per cent of cases are overturned because the first decision made was the wrong one. That means that over 60 per cent of the 30,000 people are going to not be found to be owed protection if this schedule passes. That does not mean that they are not refugees; it just means that the minister does not have to admit that a mistake was made. It makes it easier for him to stick them back into detention or on a plane back to Kabul, or to Quetta, or to whatever other place from which they have fled persecution.
The reason this is so fundamental is that it is about life and death. This is about how you assess somebody to be a refugee. We have spent most of the night in this place debating what happens once somebody is found to be a refugee—whether they get a temporary visa, whether it is a pathway to permanency—when in actual fact this is the crux of it: the minister wants the power to give fewer visas to people, full stop. He wants to be able to put more people on a plane and deport them back to danger. The schedule is fundamentally flawed. It is abhorrent to the rule of law, and it must not proceed.