Senate debates

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Committees

Human Rights Committee; Report

6:33 pm

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

Thank you, but I will take the senator's remarks under advisement. I just want to make it very clear that the view of the committee with regard to the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Cessation) Bill 2019, which has been accurately categorised by the committee—that it is a bill to provide the Minister for Home Affairs with a discretionary power to determine that a person ceases to be an Australian citizen in certain circumstances—is contestable. This is a piece of legislation that won't be supported by the Australian Greens because it certainly does engage the obligations of non-refoulement that the chair has just spoken about.

I go to the committee report and I quote from page 128—2.62 in the report. The report says:

The committee notes that the cessation of a person's citizenship would result in a person located in Australia being granted an ex-citizen visa, and as this visa could be subject to cancellation on character grounds, the person may become an unlawful non-citizen and liable for removal from the country. The committee notes the legal advice that this therefore engages Australia’s obligations of non-refoulement and the right to an effective remedy.

That's all well and good, as far as it goes, but, having said that the committee notes the legal advice that the legislation does, therefore, engage Australia's obligations of non-refoulement, the report, in 2.64, goes on to say:

... the committee does not consider that the measures directly engage the obligations of non-refoulement and a right to an effective remedy.

In other words, the committee's finding in 2.64 is contrary to the comment in 2.62 that the legal advice says that the legislation does engage Australia's obligations of non-refoulement.

We won't be supporting this legislation because, in fact, it is draconian legislation that joins the well over 200 pieces of legislation that have passed through state, territory and Commonwealth parliaments in the last 20 years in this country which remove fundamental rights, freedoms and liberties from our citizens and continue the slow erosion of rights in this country. It is a zombie shuffle that this country is engaged in on the road to a police state. It is a zombie shuffle down a dark and dangerous path where rights are being eroded by a collusion between the Liberal-National members who currently sit in government and the Labor members who currently sit in opposition. I say now it's time for a charter of rights in Australia.

We are the only liberal democracy in the world that does not have some form of either a constitutionally embedded or a legislatively enshrined charter of rights. It's time that we came out of the Dark Ages in this country and had a charter of rights. If we did have a charter of rights, it would make it far more difficult for this government, with the collusion in most instances of the Australian Labor Party, to remove the rights, freedoms and liberties that so many tens of thousands of Australians have died or been injured—including ancestors of mine—fighting to protect and defend. It's a very dangerous path that we're on as a country. And, of course, we need to do all we can to keep our people safe. But we need a conversation in this country about how many of our rights and freedoms we are collectively willing to give away in the interests of maintaining Australia as a safe a place as possible.

The report also goes to the Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Income Management to Cashless Debit Card Transition) Bill 2019. As an aside, with the indulgence of the Senate, I just want to mention Senator Rachel Siewert's work in standing up for people on Newstart and, more broadly, for people who are in the social security system. She's been an absolute warrior for those people. Again, we believe that this bill engages and limits the right to privacy, to social security, to equality and nondiscrimination. They are four very important rights. As set out in the international human rights legal advice contained in the concluding comments of the report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, the measures associated with this bill significantly intrude into the freedom and autonomy of individuals to organise their private and family lives by making their own decisions about the way in which they spend their social security payments. I also believe that the measures contained in the legislation have a disproportionate impact on First Nations people. It's is unclear whether the proposed cashless welfare scheme expansion is rationally connected with its stated objectives, noting the mixed results outlined in the trial evaluations completed to date. So, again, the Australian Greens will not be supporting this legislation.

I sat on this committee through the entirety of the previous parliament, and since the last election I've been sitting on the committee for the entirety of the current parliament. I'm sad to say that this committee is becoming politicised in this current term of the parliament in a way that I had not seen in my previous term and in a way that I do not believe it has ever been politicised since its inception. This is a technical committee with a crucial mandate to examine bills for compatibility with rights and freedoms recognised or declared by the seven core international human rights treaties to which Australia is a signatory, and this committee should not be treated as a rubber stamp for government policy or an uncritical propagator of government rhetoric. It would be an extremely poor reflection on members of this committee if that were the case.

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