27 March 2024

Greens, independents decry deportation bill 'disgracefully' rushed through parliament

| Chris Johnson
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High Court of Australia

The new laws will make it harder for detainees to pursue their actions in the High Court. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The Federal Government has rushed legislation into parliament to make it easier to deport non-citizens and harder for detainees to challenge the immigration system in the High Court.

In a move that refugee advocates are describing as draconian, the government insisted the bill pass through both houses this week to head off more immigration detainees being released into the community.

New laws will also give immigration ministers exceptional powers to pause visas for citizens of countries that will not take refugees back.

The Migration Amendment (Removals and Other Measures) Bill 2024 was passed in the House of Representatives directly following its introduction on Tuesday (26 March), after standing orders were suspended to make way for the votes.

However, the move caused chaos in the chamber, with the Greens and the independents trying to move amendments and stop the third reading vote.

Greens leader Adam Bandt described the urgency surrounding the bill as “extraordinary”, with a complete lack of consultation or prior warning.

“Nothing was put forward that justifies us losing the usual rights of everyone in this parliament to consider such important legislation,” he said.

“On our reading of this legislation, a mum who refuses to sign a passport application for her children to be returned to Iran, where they have a fear of persecution, could be put in jail.”

The two-part bill relates to current refugees in detention, as well as dealing with future asylum seeker arrivals.

It deals with current detainees – in detention, as well as those on bridging visas – who have no other prospects of remaining in Australia or becoming citizens.

The deportation bill requires non-citizens who have exhausted their avenues for remaining in Australia to cooperate with authorities to “ensure their prompt and lawful removal” and make them apply for passports to return to their countries of origin.

A mandatory five-year jail term will be applied to those who do not comply.

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It also allows the government to block visas from citizens of countries whose governments will not accept their nationals Australia wants to return.

In introducing the bill to the House of Representatives, Immigration Minister Andrew Giles said the government was seeking urgent passage.

“Non-citizens who have no right to be in Australia should leave voluntarily … Unfortunately, examples of non-cooperation with the government’s removal efforts have been going on for far too long against the expectations of the Australian community and undermining the integrity of our migration program.”

After passing in the House, Mr Giles was grilled about it by the independents during Question Time, particularly in relation to children.

The Minister said the legislation dealing with children contained a safeguard that was consistent with Australia’s human rights obligations.

“What we’re doing with this piece of legislation, this important piece of legislation, is to fill a very significant loophole,” he said.

“A loophole that a small cohort of people have no basis upon which to remain in Australia who are refusing to cooperate with efforts to affect their removal.

“Importantly … these people are not refugees.”

The bill stalled briefly in the Senate, with agreement for a two-hour inquiry hearing into the bill last night.

It is expected to pass successfully in the Senate today.

ACT independent Senator David Pocock said Labor and the Coalition had joined forces to show contempt for parliament’s processes and that it appeared the Opposition was now running the Federal Government.

“The way the government treated the independents in the Lower House today was disgraceful. It was absolutely disgraceful,” Senator Pocock said.

“They did not allow them to say anything; gagged debate, and didn’t even allow them to move amendments to the bill.”

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Almost 150 detainees were released last year after the High Court ruled they could not be kept in detention indefinitely. Another case is currently being heard separately, and more could follow.

In the Senate inquiry last night, Department of Home Affairs officials said the current case before the High Court was not driving the legislation or its timing.

The Opposition has been relentless in its attacks on the government, which it says has allowed “hardened criminals” to roam free in the community.

But Labor’s move with this bill caught the Coalition by as much surprise as it did the crossbench.

The Opposition was wild about only being briefed on it that morning, but it ultimately voted with the government as expected.

Shadow immigration minister Dan Tehan said everything the government does regarding immigration is “rushed, is chaotic, is botched, and there is a complete and utter lack of transparency”.

The Human Rights Law Centre said the bill will criminalise refugees and compound indefinite detention.

Refugee advocate Jane Salmon said the legislation is as “draconian and jackbooted” as anything Opposition Peter Dutton ever dreamt up while he was in government and the responsible minister.

“It comes at a time when more refugees than ever are forced to flee war, brutal repression or political assassination when foreign aid is cut, and regional processing options are missing,” she said.

“What’s next? Stormtroopers stopping people for citizenship checks in the streets again?”

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The Greens need to grow up and become part of the real world.

@teddy bear
By “grow up” you mean the Greens have to just accept government legislation and not take time to review it? Even the Coalition voted to delay passage of the Bill pending further investigation … do they need to grow up too?

William Newby7:50 pm 27 Mar 24

The Greens won’t be happy until Australia is a #1 safe haven for all the worlds rapists and murderers. I really wonder who they are representing with these insane ideas of theirs. We are fast becoming the rubbish dump of the Pacific.

Stephen Saunders1:51 pm 27 Mar 24

This is the crazy government of One Million Migrants in two years. It is poetic justice, that they have got into trouble, trying to move a handful the other way.

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