Friday, 10 November 2023
Statements by Senators
I wish to add to my answer in question time yesterday relating to the High Court's decision relating to the Migration Act. This is a significant decision overturning a 20-year-old precedent. Our first priority as a government will always be the protection of Australians. I can confirm that the government complied with the High Court's order and released the individual who brought the case in the High Court, but that release was subject to strict conditions. Complying with orders of the High Court is not optional. Governments are required to act in accordance with the law, and that is what we will do. We are working through the implications of the High Court's order more broadly. As I informed the Senate yesterday, the full scope of the impact will not be apparent until we receive the High Court's written reasons and until we receive further legal advice on the basis of those reasons.
I am advised that there are 92 individuals in addition to the plaintiff who are likely to be impacted by the decision. There may be additional individuals affected by the High Court's decision. We are now working through each case to determine the impact of the order. However, as I noted yesterday, this process will be informed by advice, and we will need to wait for the written decision from the High Court to determine the full impact of the decision. The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Minister Giles, today issued a statement advising that other individuals impacted by this decision will be released and that any visas granted to those individuals will be subject to appropriate conditions. The government will be working closely with states and territories to ensure that community safety remains paramount following the release of any individuals whose cases are affected by this decision.
President, I am hoping you might take on notice for your consideration the appropriateness of ministers making what could be construed as ministerial statements during the period of two-minute statements. I notice that Senator Watt made some comments in regard to yesterday's High Court decision, which are serious and have important implications, and I understand that yesterday he also made some comments in regard to the Optus outage. Perhaps, President, you could take it on notice for your consideration.
We're very happy to have a discussion with the opposition and the chamber about ministers adding to their answers. I do recall a minister coming in at nine o'clock at night during an adjournment debate to correct the record. I would have thought that the transparency of making a statement immediately prior to question time was a good thing.
I also make the point that there were some complaints made by Senator Paterson about Senator Watt in relation to the dates on which the High Court decision reasons were to come down. I have to say, he might be somewhat exaggerating, if you look at what Senator Paterson said. But Senator Watt has added to his answer to make clear the position of the government in relation to the High Court decision—something that any government is bound by.
Thank you, President. I'm sure you'll understand the precision with which I asked you to look at the matter. It was about the suitability of two-minute statements, between 1.30 and 2 pm every day, for ministers making contributions about ministerial matters.
Senator Smith, I'm not sure if you recall, but the Procedure Committee made a decision to insert two-minute statements—the speakers lists for which, from all accounts, are always full every day—into the routine of business. So that's been eagerly received by all senators in this chamber. The Procedure Committee didn't put any rules around what could or couldn't be said, in the same way that we wouldn't seek to curtail debate in this place unless it was a breach of the standing orders.
You would appreciate, of course, though, that, when statements are made at the time for ministerial statements, there is an opportunity for other senators to take note of those statements, which is denied to other senators during the two-minute statement period.