Monday, 16 October 2017
Australian Border Force Amendment (Protected Information) Bill 2017; In Committee
The opposition will not be supporting these amendments. The amendments that have been moved by the Greens do not come with the support of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee's inquiry into the bill. As I understand it, the essential difference that is being proposed here is that the Human Rights Commission suggested the bill be amended to delete the words:
… would or could reasonably be expected to prejudice the security, defence or international relations of Australia
and to replace those words with, 'reasonably likely to damage the security defence or international relations'. We have a difference from 'prejudice' to 'damage', so there is a fine difference. Upon legal advice, the opposition has taken the view that the proposition in the bill stands, and we support that notion.
Consistent with a number of submissions that were made to the Senate inquiry, we welcome the legislation for what it does in narrowing the scope of information that would be protected and offering greater clarity about the types of information that could be publicly disclosed. That included support from the Refugee Advice and Casework Service and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Dr Joyce Chia from the Refugee Council of Australia provided testimony to the public hearing of the Senate inquiry, stating:
Like others who have made submissions, we believe this is a welcome and long-overdue bill …
Labor support the bill before the Senate as it stands because we support the additional transparency and accountability that will be provided. It is important to clarify any real or perceived confusion about whether or not the information is actually protected. Labor agrees that people should have the right to disclose non-sensitive information where appropriate and where required. This is crucial to the trust and integrity that Australians have in our immigration and humanitarian programs. We'll continue to hold the government to account on these matters, particularly in regard to its failure in the management of Australia's offshore processing arrangements. The amendments the Greens are proposing do not change people's capacity to disclose non-protected information, so Labor will be opposing this amendment.