Friday, 12 June 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, Senator Cash. Minister, I refer you to the ongoing situation at Kangaroo Point in Brisbane, where your government is trying to force refugees and people seeking asylum from the so-called 'alternative place of detention' into an actual immigration detention facility. I've spoken personally to one of your innocent prisoners, who was told directly that he was being forcibly moved because he had spoken out publicly about the injustices he's faced over the last nearly seven years. Is it true that you are specifically moving people who have spoken out in the media or who have otherwise protested against their detention in order to silence their dissent?
I would thank Senator McKim for the question, but, unfortunately, the entire premise of the question was untrue, so it's difficult to do that. I completely reject the premise of your question, Senator McKim, and the answer is quite clearly no.
Can I also point out something in relation to the Kangaroo Point alternative place of detention? Senator McKim, you frequently refer to these places as places in which prisoners are held. The Kangaroo Point alternative place of detention is actually, for the benefit of those listening in, the Kangaroo Point Central Hotel and Apartments. That is the place that you are actually referring to.
In relation to the protest that is being currently held at the Kangaroo Point Central Hotel and Apartments, otherwise the Kangaroo Point alternative place of detention, can I just advise, for the benefit of the chamber—
Honourable senators interjecting—
that decisions to move detainees between these facilities are made independently by the Australian Border Force. As Senator McKim would know, these decisions are made for a number of reasons, including to manage numbers in each facility, for health reasons and to ensure the safety of detainees, staff and the public. There are protests outside the Brisbane facility. Now, for the benefit, again, of Senator McKim: the man at the centre of these protests—goodness, gracious!—is Brisbane Greens councillor, Jonathan Sri. For the record, Brisbane Greens councillor, Jonathan Sri's actions are completely, totally and utterly unacceptable for a public official, and I would hope that Senator McKim would agree.
If Senator McKim had listened to my first answer, which clearly he didn't, he would have heard me say that decisions to move detainees are made independently by the Australian Border Force. But let me just—
The point of order is relevance. What we got is a generic answer to an absolutely specific question in regard to the actual circumstances that are pertaining right now, as we debate this matter. The question is: how has home affairs decided who to move, specifically in regard to the situation?
The second part of your question, which I have written down, is: 'How is home affairs deciding who to move?' That followed a preamble where you were responding to the minister's previous concluding comments. Now, the minister was speaking for 10 seconds and had uttered one sentence. That sentence did actually refer to the movement of people. I cannot make a ruling on direct relevance 11 seconds and one sentence in. I can't instruct the minister how to answer a question, but I do remind senators that ministers can be directly relevant responding to preambles as well as to questions.
I would like to address Senator McKim's preamble now, because in that preamble he actually congratulated Greens councillor, Jonathan Sri. Let me tell the chamber what Greens councillor, Jonathan Sri, has been doing. What he's been doing is inciting a protest whereby people are jumping on vehicles, and a delivery driver was confronted by protesters who insisted on searching his vehicle. Protesters—I again note the congratulations of Senator McKim—are also breaching social-distancing restrictions. What is that doing? Risking the spread of COVID-19, not only amongst the community, Senator McKim, but amongst the people that you are allegedly standing here and expressing fake concern for. (Time expired)
What ought or may not be considered relevant is in the rules set by the Senate. The minister was alluding to a comment that the minister was about to make. The minister has to be strictly and directly relevant to what you raised, which was a very specific question, but I do not have the ability to instruct the minister how to answer the question. There's an opportunity after question time to debate it, but it was a specific question and I will constrain the minister's comments to be directly relevant to the terms and the question you asked.
No. Firstly, the minister has concluded her answer, so I can't take a point of order. Secondly, despite the fact that you consider it to be unsatisfactory, I do not consider that answer to be not directly relevant, because it goes to the movement of people. You are asking for the content of an answer. You can debate that answer, but I cannot instruct a minister that that statement is not directly relevant. There's a time to debate it, and that is for others to judge.