Senate debates

Thursday, 25 June 2015


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

5:40 pm

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

by leave—I move Greens amendments (4) and (6) on sheet 7738 together:

(4) Schedule 1, page 3 (after line 19), after subsection 198AHA(2), insert:

  (2A) Despite subsection (2), the Commonwealth must not:

  (a) take, or cause to be taken, any action; or

  (b) make any payment, or cause any payment to be made; or

(c) do anything else that is incidental or conducive to the taking of such action or the making of such a payment;

to the extent that the action, payment or anything else will result in, or enable, the restraint over the liberty of an individual for longer than 3months.

(6) Schedule 1, page 4 (after line 5), at the end of the Schedule, add (after proposed item 3):

4 Application—detention beyond 3 months

  Subsection 198AHA(2) of the Migration Act 1958, as amended by this Act, applies in relation to an action, payment or anything else that is done by the Commonwealth on or after the day on which this Act receives the Royal Assent.

These amendments go to putting a three-month time limit on the detention of individuals inside our offshore detention centres. We keep being told that these facilities are processing centres—that they are for the purpose of processing people's claims for asylum, whether they are in Nauru or whether they are in Papua New Guinea. Billions of dollars are being spent detaining individuals for months and years on end, without any real progress on processing their applications for protection. It is time we stopped wasting that amount of money detaining all of these individuals for such long periods of time. We sent a signal to the bureaucrats that there must be a time frame that the processing needs to happen by.

We know that it is long-term detention and the indefinite nature of detention that is the most damaging to people's mental health while they are detained in these facilities. The facilities are harsh—the United Nations Committee Against Torture has described them as akin to inhumane and torturous conditions. Amnesty International has also described the facilities as akin to torture. And yet, we keep people locked up indefinitely for months and months and years and years on end.

It is a waste of Australian taxpayer money. It is a waste of people's lives. Keeping people indefinitely incarcerated is ruining our international reputation. It should be possible to process their claims much faster than this. If claimants are found to be refugees, we will resettle them. If they are not found to be refugees, we will send them home. We must get them out of this hellhole and this awful limbo that they are currently stuck in.

To be honest, I would be more than happy to negotiate and talk about what length of time would be most appropriate. I have gone with three months, because the previous decisions and recommendations from committee after committee in this place, and in joint committees, have settled on 90 days—three months—as the appropriate length of time to get through applications. I think it could be done much faster than that. Perhaps the government or the Labor Party thinks that it could be a bit longer, but we have to have some limit.

The indefinite incarceration of any individual is wrong. Just because they have sought asylum and protection does not mean they deserve to be indefinitely incarcerated and locked up. The bill before us today, brought into the House last night and rushed through to this place, gives the government the authority to remove people's liberty no matter what. I do not think that is good enough. I think there should be a limit on how long people are detained for.

There should be a limit on how much money the Australian government is allowed to spend detaining an individual. Currently, it costs half a million dollars per year per person detained in Nauru. It costs $500,000 per person—man, woman or child—detained for a year in Nauru. That is what the government's own budget papers show—half a million to keep somebody locked up for 12 months on Nauru. It is a waste of money. It does not need to be that expensive. It does not need to be for 12 months. Of course, we know that the hundreds of people detained on Nauru and the hundreds more detained on Manus Island have been in detention for over two years—$1 million per person to keep these people locked up indefinitely. There is currently no end point.

We have to put some restrictions and limits on how far we are prepared to push people's humanity. These people deserve some hope. The worst part about mandatory detention, particularly in offshore facilities, is the indefinite nature and the lack of hope. That is why people turn to self-harm. That is why the attempted suicide rates in detention centres at the moment are higher than they have ever been before. That is why we have children witnessing for themselves and then acting out self-harm. That is why we see dozens and dozens of antidepressant pills handed out every morning, every afternoon and every night in the Manus Island and Nauru detention centres. People have gone mad. These places drive people crazy. The lack of hope kills their souls. Let us put some limits on how long these people have to live in these places without any hope. Process their claims. If they are not refugees, send them home; if they are, get on with it. Stop killing them slowly. I look forward to the amendments being debated.


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