Senate debates

Thursday, 13 May 2021


Consideration of Legislation

9:31 am

Photo of Rex PatrickRex Patrick (SA, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

Sure. I'll go to exactly that at the moment. Last week it was revealed that there are 173 unaccompanied Australian children in India who are affected by the determination. If we don't deal with this determination this week, that will continue. Not only that; there is a possibility that, throughout this pandemic, the minister could extend that determination. The minister could make a new determination that is similar. It's important to understand.

Last night I read through the explanatory memorandum of the Biosecurity Act around section 477, which is how the power is being exercised in these circumstances, and there was nothing in there that suggested in any way, shape or form that that particular act would ever be used to prevent an Australian from returning home. We're in a situation where a determination that wasn't foreshadowed has been made. So, the urgency in dealing with this is the fact that a right has been taken away that the parliament never intended to take away. That's the problem we've got here. That's why we need to deal with this issue urgently. We have had a determination made that is not disallowable, so the Senate can't use its normal processes to deal with this determination.

Again, I checked the explanatory memorandum last night, and the reason for not having these determinations disallowable was that they were going to be determinations that were based on technical and scientific requirements. This doesn't go anywhere near that. This is about the removal of a right for an Australian to return home—to criminalise an Australian's return home. That was never the intention of a non-disallowable instrument under the bill that was debated back in 2014. So there is absolute urgency in dealing with this motion.

I wasn't in the chamber yesterday when Senator Fierravanti-Wells talked about this determination, but I did read the Hansard this morning. She made it very clear that these sorts of determinations are quite dangerous—where the parliament has no oversight over the exercise of a power. So I am now forced to come into the chamber and seek to expedite the passage of my bill through this chamber in order to deal with a situation that should never have arisen under the bill that was originally presented to this parliament. I invite people to go back and have a look at that explanatory memorandum. I invite them to have a look at the debates. The exercise of this sort of power was never mentioned.

We have to deal with this bill. I'd love to be able to do it by way of disallowance. I'm unable to do that, and that's the reason we should be dealing with this bill this morning.


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