Senate debates

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Bills

Migration Amendment (Regional Processing Arrangements) Bill 2015; In Committee

5:26 pm

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

by leave—I move Greens amendments (3) and (5) together:

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

1A Subsection 198AB(2)

  Repeal the subsection, substitute:

(2) The only conditions for the exercise of the power under subsection (1) are:

  (a) that the Minister thinks that it is in the national interest to designate the country to be a regional processing country; and

  (b) that subsection (4A) has been complied with.

1B After subsection 198AB(4)

  Insert:

  (4A) The Minister must not designate a country to be a regional processing country unless the country has given Australia assurances, in writing, to the effect that the country will allow the following persons or bodies reasonable access to unauthorised maritime arrivals who have been taken to the regional processing country under section 198AD:

  (a) the Australian Human Rights Commission;

  (b) the Commonwealth Ombudsman;

(c) journalists (within the meaning of the Evidence Act 1995).

  (4B) The assurances referred to in subsection (4A) need not be legally binding.

Note: However, the Minister must revoke a designation if the country does not comply with those assurances, see subsection (5A).

1C After subsection 198AB(5)

  Insert:

  (5A) If:

  (a) the Minister designates a country under subsection (1); and

  (b) the country has given written assurances under subsection (4A); and

(c) the Minister becomes aware that the country has not complied, or is not complying, with those assurances;

the Minister must revoke the designation.

(5) Schedule 1, page 4 (after line 5), at the end of the Schedule, add:

2 Application—written assurances relating to access

     The amendments made to the Migration Act 1958 by items 1A, 1B and 1C apply in relation to the designation of a country as a regional processing centre on or after the day on which this Act receives the Royal Assent.

3 Application and transitional—regional processing countries designated before Royal Assent

(1) This item applies if the Minister designated a country to be a regional processing country under subsection 198AB(1) of the Migration Act 1958 before the day on which this Act receives the Royal Assent.

(2) As soon as practicable, but no later than 3 months after the day on which this Act receives the Royal Assent, the Minister must revoke the designation unless the country has given assurances, in writing, to the effect that the country will allow the following persons or bodies reasonable access to unauthorised maritime arrivals who have been taken to the regional processing country under section 198AD of that Act:

  (a) the Australian Human Rights Commission;

  (b) the Commonwealth Ombudsman;

(c) journalists (within the meaning of the Evidence Act 1995).

(3) If the assurances under subitem (2) are given, subsection 198AB(5A) of the Migration Act 1958, as amended by this Schedule, applies in relation to the designation on and after the day the assurances are received, as if the designation were made under section 198AB of that Act as amended by this Act.

These amendments go to the issue of access to the detention facilities. This bill is retrospective in nature. It allows for the funding of billions of dollars to run the Manus Island and Nauru detention centres and, of course, retrospectively allows for the government to detain individuals in these facilities. With the Australian taxpayer spending billions of dollars on contracts to private operators to run these facilities, we want to make sure that these facilities are actually being run properly, that they are being run humanely, in a decent way, with people being treated with dignity and respect, that the money being spent is worth it and that the facilities are, indeed, up to scratch.

If we are going to spend billions of dollars in running these facilities, you would want to make sure they are being run properly. All of the evidence that has come from the Moss review, the Human Rights Commission previously and, of course, the parliament's own Senate inquiry into the Nauru detention centre indicates that they are not being run properly. We have no idea what is going on inside except for when whistleblowers speak out or, indeed, things get so bad that the information leaks. It would be prudent for any government that wants to run these facilities and spend billions of dollars doing it, that they in fact have some element of transparency and that there is independent oversight of what goes on in these places.

These amendments allow for media access to these facilities, access for the Human Rights Commission and access by the Commonwealth Ombudsman. Both the Human Rights Commission and the Commonwealth Ombudsman have access to Australian based detention centres, and those on Christmas Island. This set of amendments gives those two bodies access to any other facility in relation to the offshore network. That, of course, means those on Manus Island and Nauru.

The element of allowing journalists to access these facilities is absolutely important. There is a reason that this government has kept journalists out. It is because the things that are going on inside are horrendous. The reason there is a media blackout on detention centres is that if the public knew how terrible things were inside and how awful it is for the children in there, the government knows that the Australian people would not accept it. Yet we have the Abbott government saying they are all big supporters of free speech and that they have nothing to hide. Well, if you have nothing to hide, open the gates and let the media in. Open the gates and allow the Human Rights Commission to investigate and inquire. Allow the Commonwealth Ombudsman the oversight of the cases in relation to these facilities.

This amendment specifically says that if we are going to spend billions of dollars of Australian taxpayers money we have to make sure we know what is going on inside. I look forward to hearing why the Labor Party and the government are prepared to keep the public in the dark, keep the gates locked and keep the independent watchdogs out.

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