Thursday, 19 March 2015
Migration Amendment (Protection and Other Measures) Bill 2014; In Committee
The Greens oppose schedule 1 in the following terms:
(1) Schedule 1, item 2, page 5 (lines 3 to 12), to be opposed.
(3) Schedule 1, items 4 to 10, page 5 (line 18) to page 6 (line 22), to be opposed.
(4) Schedule 1, item 11, page 6 (line 25) to page 7 (line 14), section 91WA to be opposed.
(5) Schedule 1, items 12 and 13 (lines 28 to 32), to be opposed.
I move Australian Greens amendment (1) on sheet 7674:
(1) Schedule 1, item 11, page 6 (line 26) to page 7 (line 2), omit subsection 91WA(1), substitute:
(1) The Minister may refuse to grant a protection visa to an applicant for a protection visa if:
(i) the applicant provides a bogus document as evidence of the applicant's identity, nationality or citizenship; or
(ii) the Minister is satisfied that the applicant has destroyed or disposed of documentary evidence of the applicant's identity, nationality or citizenship, or has caused such documentary evidence to be destroyed or disposed of; and
(b) other grounds exist on which the Minister may refuse to grant the protection visa.
This amendment is in relation to removing the word 'must' and replacing it with 'may' in this section of the bill, where it says that the minister must make an adverse finding when somebody's documents are found to be false or there is not a good enough explanation. I just think it is a little bit dangerous, as always, to insist in the law, in the legislation itself, that the minister must do that. I think we need to build in a little more balance, a little more fairness, a little more ability for some rational thought. That would mean replacing the word 'must' with 'may'. It should not be controversial. The minister still gets to make that decision.
There are still the subsequent amendments, which I know have been discussed previously, throughout this debate, about the elements of whether people have to show that they have tried to explain why they do not have the right documentation, with a good explanation of why they do not have the right documentation or indeed evidence of why they do not have the right documentation. But to force the minister to have to make an adverse assessment of that really plays with the lives of people. As I outlined earlier, there are a variety of real reasons why people do not have the right documentation when they arrive on our shores or at our airports as asylum seekers. Getting out of your country often requires you to be smuggled out. That is the way it has been for generations, for hundreds of years. It is just the reality, unfortunately, for people who are seeking asylum. Ensuring that the minister 'may' instead of 'must' make an adverse finding just builds a little more fairness into the legislation.
The government will be opposing this amendment. The government's proposed section 91WA is needed to discourage the use of bogus identity documents and the destruction or discarding of documentary evidence of identity, nationality or citizenship by or on behalf of people seeking protection in Australia. This measure is appropriate to the central role that establishing identity, nationality or citizenship plays in the granting of a protection visa.
The CHAIRMAN: The question is that amendment (1) on sheet 7674 be agreed to.
The Greens oppose schedule 1 in the following terms:
(2) Schedule 1, item 11, page 7 (lines 15 to 27), section 91WB to be opposed.
This goes to the issue of family reunion. The Greens have for a long time been very concerned with the continuing trend under this government but also, admittedly, the previous government to make family reunion for asylum seekers and refugees in this country harder and harder. To be honest, it does not make an awful lot of sense. On one hand, the government argues that people should not take a disorderly migration route to get to Australia as a refugee and that they should come through an orderly process. Yet, over and over again the orderly process options through family reunion are getting harder and harder for people to access.
When family reunion was banned, we saw an increase in the number of women, children and unaccompanied minors arriving on boats. The only way that those young people, mothers, and wives could be reunited with their fathers, brothers and sons was to also get on a boat and come to Australia. It forces families to take the even more desperate measure of taking a dangerous journey or, as the government would say, a disorderly pathway to get to Australia. This bill is, again, another step in the plank of making family reunion even harder.
We know that the dangers often left behind for the families of people who flee as refugees and as asylum seekers are unthinkable. We know that many refugees who arrive in Australia will never be reunited with their families. Their families get targeted and their lives become even harder. The risk to them heightens because a family member has already fled. That is the problem with this piece of legislation: it puts the family members of those who have already arrived here in Australia at even more risk. Rather than finding a better way to help support them, to bring them to this country in an orderly process, to help families be reunited safely, part of this bill—this particular schedule—puts the lives of family members of asylum seekers at even more risk. We do not have to do that. There is no need to do that. It is just out of plain spite along the lines of the continued cruelty and uncertainty that is inflicted on asylum seekers as part of the regime of harsh policies by this government. I am disappointed to see that the Labor Party is in lockstep with the Abbott government on this.
Children, particularly unaccompanied children, are going to be put at higher risk because of the current amendment as drafted by the government, and that is why the Greens do not support it and that is why we are trying our best to fix it. We want to make sure we support families being reunited safely and are not forcing unaccompanied minors into the hands of the people who torture them, who want to kill them or who force them to take an unnecessary and dangerous journey to get here when indeed we could be bringing them here safely ourselves.
The government will not be supporting the Greens amendment. This measure is intended to prevent and discourage the use of the onshore component of Australia's humanitarian program as a means of family migration. There are avenues for family reunion, for the family of permanent protection visa holders, for example, spousal visas.
Section 91WB is intended to encourage family members of protection visa holders to follow the normal avenues of family migration and discourage them from arriving in Australia, particularly legally, in order to be granted a protection visa on the basis of being a family member of someone who already holds a visa.
The CHAIRMAN: The question is that section 91WB in item 11 of schedule 1 stand as printed.