Thursday, 9 February 2017
Questions without Notice
This is a question to the Attorney-General. Attorney, this question relates to the storming this morning, under cover of darkness, of Fox compound in the Lombrum RPC on Manus Island by Papua New Guinean police and private security guards and the forced removal of at least one detainee with the intention of forcibly deporting him from Papua New Guinea. This morning you informed the Senate: 'It is quite wrong, therefore, for Senator McKim to claim that rights are being violated.' I refer you to the opinion of Professor Jane McAdam dated today, which is publicly available on the website of the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at the University of New South Wales, which says that 'Papua New Guinea's refugee status determination process is inconsistent with international law in a number of significant respects'. Aren't you wrong when you say that no rights are being disregarded?
Senator McKim, you can hardly expect me to comment on an opinion published today that I have not read or considered. I will read the opinion and I will form my own views, but the point I made to you in the debate this morning I repeat: the people who were subject of these removal proceedings are people who have been determined not to be refugees. You say that this particular professor asserts that the procedure whereby that assessment is arrived at is in some respects flawed, though you do not indicate in what respects it is asserted to have been flawed. Nevertheless, it is the case that if a person is determined not to be a refugee, then they are lawfully subject to removal proceedings to their country of origin.
While we speak of the Manus Island detention centre, Senator McKim, might I also remind you that every single person in the Manus Island detention centre—whether they be a person determined to be a refugee or, as in the case of the people of whom we speak now, people whose claim to be a refugee has been rejected—every single one of them, was placed in that detention centre by the Rudd Labor government in consequence of a deal entered into between New Guinea and Australia at the time of the Rudd Labor government. The other point I would make to you, Senator McKim, is that since the election of the coalition government in 2013, we have been dealing with the legacy case load inherited from the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments. We have emptied all of Australia's detention centres and resettled the people. The people in offshore detention have been the subject of a recent agreement with the American government.
Relevantly to the Attorney's previous answer: given Professor McAdam's opinion and that of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that says that Papua New Guinea's refugee status determined process could lead to wrongful denial of refugee status—that is a four-year-old opinion by the way, Attorney—are you not only breaching their rights but also trampling all over them?
The answer to your question is that neither I nor any Australian official is doing any such thing. As the High Court of Australia decided in relation to the Nauru detention arrangements, those arrangements are conducted not by the government of Australia but by the government of Nauru. Although the Manus Island detention centre has not been the subject of final proceedings in the High Court, the agreement between the Australian government and the Nauruan government is in all material respects the same as the agreement between the Australian government and the New Guinean government in respect of Manus Island. So, do not take it from me, Senator McKim. Accept that, if you stand on your high horse here in the Senate this afternoon and invoke the rule of law, you should respect the rule of law by respecting the final determination on this issue of the High Court of Australia.
Attorney, if any of the detainees on Manus Island are forcibly deported to their country of origin and, as a result of that deportation, die while Australia turns a blind eye, will you, Mr Dutton and Mr Turnbull have their blood on your hands?
Under the policies which were in place when the coalition was elected in 2013, we know that 1,200 men, women and children drowned at sea—1,200 that we know about—as a result of the most catastrophic policy failure in Australian history. We know that 50,000 people came to Australia unlawfully in some 800 boats because the Australian Labor Party had the 'problem under control'. We have fixed the problem. We have fixed a problem that cost more than 1,200 innocent lives. So, if you want to speak about people with blood on their hands, look to your right, do not look to the government!