Thursday, 28 June 2012
I seek leave to make a very brief statement.
by leave—I thank the Senate. I can indicate that the coalition is in agreement with this motion that the Manager of Government Business seeks to move, with one caveat. I know it is a bit of a pipedream, but, in the event that the Migration Legislation Amendment (The Bali Process) Bill 2012 is dealt with prior to question time, we would be seeking the government's cooperation to reintroduce question time into today's agenda.
Senator Abetz will appreciate in the few minutes we have had we have amended the motion to accommodate his concerns at this stage. The motion that I will move will not rule out that possibility. Perhaps if I read it, it will make that clear.
by leave—I move:
That the provisions of paragraphs (5) to (8) of standing order 111 not apply to the Migration Legislation Amendment (The Bali Process) Bill 2012 and the Tax Laws Amendment (Managed Investment Trust Withholding Tax) Bill 2012, and that government business have precedence until 2 pm today.
Question agreed to.
I table a statement of reasons justifying the need for the Migration Legislation Amendment (The Bali Process) Bill 2012 to be considered during these sittings, and seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
The statement read as follows—
MIGRATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (THE BALI PROCESS) BILL 2012
Purpose of the Bill
The Bill amends the Migration Act 1958 and the Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act 1946 to enable the Minister to designate a country to be an offshore assessment country on the conditions that he thinks it is in the national interest to do so and that the country is a party to the Bali Process.
In designating a country, the Minister must have regard to whether the country has given Australia any assurances in relation to the non-refoulement of anyone taken to the country and whether the country will make, or permit to be made, an assessment of the persons’ refugee status. The Minister may have regard to any other matters he considers to relate to the national interest.
The Bill requires the Minister to write to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner to Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) within 14 days of designating a country to seek statements of their views in relation to the arrangements that are in place, or are to be put in place, in the designated country for the treatment of persons taken to that country.
The Bill specifies that transfers to a designated offshore assessment country can only proceed where a written agreement exists between Australia and the country.
The Bill requires the Minister to lay before each House of Parliament several documents pertaining to the designation, including summaries of the Minister’s consultations with the UNHCR and IOM. The Bill makes it clear that the purpose of laying these documents before the Parliament is solely to inform the Parliament and has no bearing on the validity of the designation of the offshore assessment country.
The Bill also sets out the powers for detaining and taking offshore entry persons to an offshore assessment country, as well as the process for determining to which offshore assessment country a person must be taken.
The Bill also requires the Minister to annually lay before each House of Parliament a report that provides information relating to activities undertaking under the Bali Process and as part of the Regional Cooperation Framework.
Reasons for Urgency
On 31 August 2011, the High Court found that the sole source of power under the Migration Act 1958 to take asylum seekers from Australia to another country for determination of their refugee status (section 198A) cannot be validly exercised to take asylum seekers to any country that is not legally bound to meet protection obligations equivalent to Australia’s.
The proposed amendments will clarify the existing framework in the Migration Act 1958 for taking asylum seekers to another country for assessment of their refugee claims.
The amendments will also clarify that provisions of the Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act 1946 do not affect the operation of the Migration Act 1958. This is particularly in relation to the making and implementation of any decision to remove a non-citizen child from Australia.
Amendments are required to ensure the Government has sufficient power to take asylum seekers to another country for assessment of their refugee claims in accordance with the government’s policies.
Renewed urgency has arisen as a result of the recent tragedies at sea and the passage of the Bill through the House of Representatives late yesterday.
As proposed new paragraph 198AA(a) notes, the Bill reflects the view of Parliament that people smuggling, and its undesirable consequences including the resulting loss of life at sea, are major regional problems that need to be addressed.
I would like to seek a clarification. Is the Tax Laws Amendment (Managed Investment Trust Withholding Tax) Bill 2012 now not subject to the cut-off? Is that what we have just voted on? That is not what is on the sheet in front of us.
Senator, I understand that you have had other matters circulated. What I read on the record was what I indicated had not been circulated but had evolved from the discussions of the parties to ensure, if possible, as Senator Abetz indicated, we would go back to question time. Also, as I understand it, both bills have been agreed in terms of the management of the routine of business to be debated today.
Mr President, I raise a point of order. The Senate was halfway through debating whether or not the cut-off should apply. I cannot speak for the coalition but certainly from my own point of view I voted for the last motion that the Manager of Government Business moved on the basis that, insofar as the Tax Laws Amendment (Managed Investment Trust Withholding Tax) Bill 2012 was concerned, the cut-off did not apply—well, it was still subject to debate in the Senate. I think we have been misled in what we were actually agreeing to.
The PRESIDENT: If I can just say this: leave had been granted to move the motion and the motion was quite clear, I thought, but I was not privy to any of what has transpired. It was in order. There is no point of order. The matter has been dealt with as far as I understand.