Senate debates

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Asylum Seekers

3:32 pm

Photo of Christine MilneChristine Milne (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Attorney-General (Senator Brandis) to a question without notice asked by Senator Hanson-Young today relating to payments in relation to the immigration detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru.

Emergency legislation is going to be rushed through this parliament this week in order to retrospectively make legal the illegal. What an appalling thing! We have just had a celebration of the Magna Carta, the whole basis of which is that the King is not above the law, and yet this government, together with the support of the Labor Party, has been acting above and outside the law. The Human Rights Law Centre has taken this matter to the High Court. The thing in question is whether Australia has the specific legislative authority to detain or lock up people in another country. There is no doubt that we have got the power to lock people up in this country, but we do not have the power to lock them up in another country. Nor is there a specific power to provide an appropriation in order to pay for people being locked up in another country.

It is absolutely disgraceful that, as this goes to the High Court to bring justice to people under the law, we have collaboration between the government and the Labor Party to retrospectively change the law to stop the High Court from being able to make its decision on this—which would find it to be illegal—in the winter break. This is going to go to court in the winter break. And in order to head it off at the pass the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, has called an emergency meeting of caucus today, and they have gone along like lambs straight after the Prime Minister to engage in enabling offshore processing. This was the opportunity to demonstrate that it is illegal to detain people in another country offshore. This was the opportunity to shut down offshore detention because it is illegal. It is not only unethical, un-Christian; it is illegal. And yet we have this collaboration to race this through the parliament today. What is the lame excuse? 'To enable the offshore processing to continue'—and what that means is ongoing abuse.

Australia has been found to be in breach of the torture convention—abuse and torture. We have a view from the Labor Party that you have to have a conscience vote on marriage equality because it is a matter of people's Christian values and conscience as to what they do about it. But apparently it is not a matter of conscience or Christian values that you would send children into an offshore detention facility where they are abused, where their mental health suffers, where women are being sexually abused, where guards are abusing people. People are too afraid to walk across to the toilet facility at night because they are afraid that they will be raped or abused on the way. When my colleague pointed out that a formal report said that children were being sexually abused, raped, at these offshore detention facilities, we got outrage from the coalition: 'How dare you say such a thing!' Well, it is not my colleagues saying it; it is the doctors, it is the reports. That is what is going on here.

The Labor Party have rolled into line with the Prime Minister, Mr Abbott. Let us not be in any doubt, the Labor, Liberal and National parties have got together here to try and bypass the High Court, to try and bypass the law of this land, and legalise the unthinkable. We are slipping into a very bad scene here in Australia when we are actually agreeing to legalise torture and abuse and look the other way. This whole business of offshore detention is 'out of sight, out of mind'. 'Send them out of country. Get the money that you do not have the legal capacity actually to pay at the moment out of appropriations and lock them up offshore and try and pretend it is the responsibility of the government of Nauru or the government of PNG.' It is not the responsibility of those countries; it is the responsibility of this one—and it is illegal. Let it be on the Labor Party's head that they today have agreed to work together with the government to bypass the High Court, to make legal what is illegal, and to turn a blind eye to the ongoing abuse and torture of people, including innocent children. That is something this parliament should be ashamed of. We are in breach of international law and we are in breach of human decency.

Question agreed to.