Senate debates

Thursday, 19 March 2015


Migration Amendment (Protection and Other Measures) Bill 2014; In Committee

12:13 pm

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

Chair, I will take your direction about moving through the circulated amendments.

The CHAIRMAN: There is a running sheet, but I am happy to take any amendments that are moved. There are none before the chair now.

by leave—I move Australian Greens amendments (3) and (1) on sheet 7572:

(1) Clause 2, page 2 (after table item 1), insert:

(3) Schedule 1, page 4 (before line 2), before Part 1, insert:

Part 1A—Amendments commencing on Royal Assent

Migration Act 1958

1A After section 35A


35B Protection visas—advice and application assistance


(1) This section applies to an applicant for a protection visa who meets the criteria prescribed by the regulations for the purposes of this subsection.

Entitlement to advice and assistance

(2) Subject to subsection (3), the applicant is entitled to receive independent immigration legal advice and assistance in relation to his or her application.

Limitation on assistance

(3) The applicant is not entitled to any assistance after:

  (a) the protection visa has been granted; or

  (b) if the protection visa is not granted and the application applies to have the decision reviewed—the review has been finally determined.

These amendments go to the need for legal assistance. The minister is right in one respect—that the Australian Greens are fundamentally opposed to a number of the things that are in this bill and we do not support the bill. We do not support the idea of schedule 2, in particular, in terms of its watering down protections for those who fall outside of the refugee convention but need complementary protection, particularly young women and girls who are facing some of the world's most awful atrocities—honour killings and awful things like that. But there are a number of other elements of this bill as well that are fundamentally bad in terms of what they are going to do in putting people's lives at risk. As I said in my speech on the second reading, this bill misses the point. It misses the realities of what it is like to be a refugee—the realities of how many people have to flee, what they have to do to get out of their countries in the first place and the journey that they take to find safety, whether it is here in Australia or elsewhere.

Given all of that, the minister is right that the Greens are opposed to this bill. But we also accept that there is majority support in this place between the Labor Party and the government on this. They believe that things need to be tougher when it comes to how Australia treats asylum seekers and refugees. I do not understand how much tougher it can really get when we lock children up, throw away the key, have them sit in indefinite detention and drive them mentally crazy. You would wonder how much tougher it can get, but, apparently, both the Labor Party and the government are willing to find out.

One of the things that we have tried to do in this bill, despite our opposition to it, is to say that there are some fundamental aspects that, if tweaked, would give a little more fairness to the system—a bit more in line with what you would expect from a fair and decent country like Australia, a country that upholds the notion of the rule of law. These two amendments, (3) and (1), go to providing legal assistance to those affected directly by this bill. One of the reasons this is important is that we know that the decisions made about whether a refugee's claim is accepted or not are life and death decisions. We have to make sure that we are not unnecessarily putting people's lives at risk. That means ensuring that people have the ability to put forward their case clearly, with an understanding of their requirements. It makes the system more efficient, which I know is one of the objectives of everybody in this place—to make the assessment process, the processing of people's claims, more efficient so that we are not unnecessarily tying up the process or, indeed, keeping people in detention or on bridging visas for any longer than need be. But, in order to do that, we need to provide legal assistance to people to help them fill out their applications.

People used to be given legal assistance to help them fill out their claims to ensure that they knew what their obligations were and to streamline the process. That legal assistance was cut some time ago. It has not been afforded to asylum seekers in this country for quite a while now, and it is time we reinstated it. If we are going to start changing the rules, people need to know what those new rules are and how they can abide by them. It is simply about showing not just a bit of care but a bit more fairness towards people as they have to manoeuvre their way through what is now becoming a pile of new processes and hurdles that they have to jump over. That is what these amendments do: they reinstate legal assistance for people so that they can successfully abide by the new rules as set out in this bill and in the bill that was passed by this place last year. It will hopefully mean that fewer mistakes are made by our immigration department, by the people who are making the assessments. If we believe that people need to give all of the information up-front and that they need to give clear explanations about where their identity documents have come from or where they have gone, we need to make sure that they have a full understanding of what the rules are and what is expected of them. Giving them legal assistance is, of course, the best way of doing that.


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