Senate debates

Thursday, 13 May 2021


Selection of Bills Committee; Report

11:57 am

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

I move the amendment that has been circulated in my name:

At the end of the motion, add:

"and, in respect of the Migration Amendment (Clarifying International Obligations for Removal) Bill 2021, the provisions of the bill be referred immediately to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 29 June 2021."

I'd like to offer a few observations, if I might, in support of the motion that the Greens are putting. Firstly, I want colleagues to know that what we're all suffering under here is yet another dirty deal on refugees struck between the ALP and the Liberal-National government. What this bill seeks to do is to undermine a decision made last year by Justice Bromberg, who ruled that the immigration detention of a particular person, known in that court case as AJL20, by the Commonwealth was unlawful and ordered the government to release him from detention immediately. The ruling also entitled AJL20 to claim damages. In that decision, Justice Bromberg further ruled that government cannot hold people in immigration detention indefinitely for no reason—that is, the government must actively pursue an outcome for the detainees they keep locked up, whether that be deportation or release into the community or to a third country. What the government is trying to do is come in here and, with the support of the Labor Party, subvert Justice Bromberg's decision and make it easier for the government to detain people indefinitely in immigration detention. I'll point out that the Labor Party took to the last election a policy of ending indefinite immigration detention onshore in Australia and providing a 30-day limit for immigration detention. Now here is the Labor Party ganging up with the government, doing a secret, dirty deal with the government, to once again do over refugees and make it easier for the government to detain people indefinitely.

That's not all that this bill does. The other thing that this bill does that is extremely troubling is that it includes a new power that would allow the government to reconsider a person's refugee status. So, even if someone has previously been found to be a refugee in Australia, the department or minister could reopen that decision at any time under section 197D(2) of the government's amended act. What this means, of course, is that someone could have been found to be a refugee a decade ago or a couple of decades ago in Australia, they could have built a life here—built a home here, built a career here, established a family here, paid taxes here and lived here, effectively, as an Australian—and then the government could turn around and say: 'Well, the conditions in your home country have changed. It's now safe for you to go back. Ta-ta, off you go. Go back to where you came from.' This is the government's philosophy that now, apparently, has been signed up to by the Labor Party, believing that our protection obligations are only temporary. They are not only temporary. They should be permanent. If somebody is found to be a refugee and has fled because they have a genuine and well-founded fear of persecution, they should get permanent protection and they should be put on a pathway immediately that would allow them ultimately to obtain Australian citizenship and reside here. But that's not what this bill does; it overturns that principle and will allow the government to reopen those refugee status determinations.

Shame on the Liberal Party for bringing this bill on. It is a complex bill that should be referred to a Senate inquiry, which is what our motion is proposing. This bill has the potential to have massive, potentially life-or-death impacts on people's lives. Totally unsurprisingly, once again here are the collaborators in refugee torture, the Australian Labor Party, who invented the last iteration of offshore detention, who have blood on their hands for exiling people to Manus Island and Nauru. They're once again coming into this place and teaming up with the Liberal and National parties in order to do over refugees in this country. Shame on you all for even thinking about it, and another layer of shame on you all for jamming this bill through the parliament with no Senate inquiry and no opportunity for stakeholders to share their views with the Senate, jamming it through effectively without meaningful debate today. This bill was only introduced into the parliament this week, and here it is being jammed through by a motion that will have support from both the Liberal and National parties and the ALP. Seriously, just when you think life for refugees couldn't get any worse in Australia, here we are.


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