28 March 2024

Labor weakened by silly 'urgent' move over its deportation bill

| Chris Johnson
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The government didn’t get its way when it tried to rush immigration detention legislation through both houses of parliament. Photo: James Coleman.

In the complicated, convoluted and controversial world of immigration policy, the Albanese Government was convincingly outplayed in the final parliamentary sitting days before Easter.

Severely embarrassed is not too strong a term to describe what went down.

Being too clever by half is another term that fits.

Being just clever enough and seizing their moment to rain on the government’s parade is how you might say the Liberals played it.

Crossbenchers in the Senate? Simply outstanding.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles, visibly worn down by the Opposition’s attacks on him in the Lower House over High Court rulings to release detained asylum seekers into the community, came up with what he must have thought was an ingenious idea.

The Migration Amendment (Removals and Other Measures) Bill 2024 seeks to make it easier to deport non-citizens and harder for detainees to challenge the immigration system in the High Court.

It would also give an immigration minister exceptional powers to pause visas for citizens of countries that will not take refugees back.

The merits of whether it is actually an ingenious idea can be debated elsewhere, and they will be now that the Senate has decided to give this bill far more scrutiny than the government wanted.

In what has turned out to be an amateur hour of juvenile politicking, the Labor government described the bill as so urgent that it must pass successfully through both houses of parliament within 48 hours.

The government only briefed the Opposition on it the morning before it was introduced. That was Tuesday (26 March).

READ ALSO Senate delivers Labor an ‘almighty backfire’ over its deportation bill

As stunned as it was, the Coalition voted with Labor to pass the bill in the House of Representatives with barely a shred of debate and only two hours after the legislation was introduced to parliament.

Crossbench protestations – and human rights concerns – were ignored.

Yet, while Labor got what it wanted in the House, the Senate had other ideas.

A hastily arranged inquiry for late the same evening was agreed to, which only exposed how little the bureaucracy knew about the government’s intentions.

That’s when the Senate proved its value to our democratic system.

And that’s when the Opposition played a better hand than the government.

The crossbench was never going to agree to rush such hastily put-together legislation through parliament without proper scrutiny, especially when so many human and legal rights are at stake.

But the crossbench on its own doesn’t have the numbers. Not in the Reps. Not in the Senate.

It was shut down in the Lower House, but in the Upper (to the Greens’ and independents’ surprise), the Coalition agreed to send the bill to committee, not to return for at least six weeks.

READ ALSO Greens, independents decry deportation bill ‘disgracefully’ rushed through parliament

That allowed the crossbench to rail on the government for its contempt for proper parliamentary process and the Coalition to look like the adults of the two major parties.

Yes, this was too important to rush through, they said.

Typical of this Labor government, they bemoaned. Instead, let’s look into this bill thoroughly.

The government wasn’t expecting that from an Opposition that probably agrees to every harsh move it is trying to make against asylum seekers.

That was how Wednesday (27 March) played out – with Labor insisting the bill had to pass now, while the Coalition and crossbench saying no.

It also allowed the Opposition to grill Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil over an altercation she reportedly had with her department boss, Stephanie Foster, over information being disclosed on crimes committed or allegedly committed by released immigration detainees.

It was an altercation that apparently left Ms Foster in tears.

So while the bill will likely pass (eventually) with amendments the government will be forced to agree to, Labor enters the parliamentary break wounded.

The Coalition, however, ended the session with a significant win.

The crossbench, as usual, is doing its best to keep them all accountable.

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HiddenDragon7:36 pm 28 Mar 24

This latest fiasco has done little to clarify and stabilise immigration policy and practice, but it has likely helped to clarify the field of plausible contenders to replace Albanese when enough of the public gets tired of listening to him – the gap between smart-mouth Question Time rhetoric and actual performance under pressure in this portfolio has been striking.

This bill should have gone through despite all the bleeding hearts, especially the Greens. Results from the High Court making decisions without considering the impact of those decisions. The ALP stuffed up as usual as it did with the Referendum and the Coalition playing politics as usual.

“Every harsh measure?” Really? No, not harsh this is how most countries protect their borders from illegals, except when the euphemistically called “progressive left” have a say. Then as the Communist Australian Greens have long espoused completely open borders and no such thing as illegals slowly but surely becomes the norm. Australians don’t want this as previous ALP Governments have found to their cost.

Labor has outdone themselves, proving themselves unfit to govern and more mean and trickier than the Liberals. A government that so many people trusted and voted for hoping that they would do the right thing. But no, Labor has proven themselves a party that is too timid when it comes to vision and overly spineless when it really counts. A party that continues to follow the opposition’s lead in demonising refugees and those seeking asylum.

Unfortunately it was our very own senator Katy Gallagher who led the fight for this disgraceful piece of policy in the Senate.

Hopefully ACT voters remember this when they vote next year!

Margaret Freemantle1:17 pm 28 Mar 24

Talk about ” damned if you do, and damned if you don’t”!!!
Labor copped it unfairly whan the high court said” let them out” Serious offenders . I thought people came to Australia for peace and prosperity – deportation seems a fair option if there is a chance of more serious crimes.

Jack I have NEVER voted ALP in my life but I would vote for Senator Gallagher after that legislation was pushed through. The vast majority of Australians do not want open borders Jack. You and people like you are definitely in the minority even amongst your leftist fellow travellers. The ALP now quickly realised that illegal arrivals and thr right to deport illegals is just as big an issue now as when it cost the Rudd Government office. The right to deport people that are criminals or do not share Australian democratic values must be protected and protected by legislation and the force of law if necessary.

Thanks for validating my comment Margaret.

Your comment and the one from Rob (and no doubt others) proves who Labor is now appealing to and the voters they are seeking to attract!

In other words Jack appealing to the extreme left alienates a political party from what most Australians believe in and want. A political party that ignores that issue if in power won’t stay there long. A political party (or individuals) that believes in open borders such as yourself, the extreme left and the Communist Greens will never be politically significant in Australia. That’s just a fact mate.

Jack D,
What type of voters is that?

Voters that want a structured immigration system that limits the ability for lawyers to use loopholes to game the system?

Voters that want Australia to take refugees from those who are most in need of our assistance rather than those wealthy enough to afford to pay people smugglers and travel halfway across the world to get here?

Voters that don’t want repeat violent offenders out on the streets?

Seems like the ALP are taking a sensible approach in who they appeal to then.

Correct on every point

“A political party (or individuals) that believes in open borders such as yourself, the extreme left and the Communist Greens will never be politically significant in Australia.”

Interesting that the ‘protect the borders at all cost’ Coalition also voted, in the Senate, to delay the bill, Rob. What say you to that?

OverheardProductions11:28 am 28 Mar 24

I only caught bits and pieces of this on my first whole day here in Mparntwe where I may be forgiven for being distracted by events here in town. Youth curfews and such.

I’ll circle back and inform myself on this debacle later.

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