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Thursday, 27 June 1996
Page: 2352

Senator SPINDLER(11.16 a.m.) —The Migration Legislation Amendment Bill (No.2) is an atrocious bill. The Australian Democrats certainly will oppose the Senate dealing with this bill now. It is an entirely new matter. It is not an old bill. It does not fall under the rules of the Senate that we have accepted in principle.

But, quite apart from that, one should be ashamed of the content of the bill. The government should be ashamed for bringing it into the chamber, and the opposition should be ashamed for supporting it. Here they are, civil libertarians, supporting a bill that will deny information to people who may or may not have a case in court and may be trying to decide whether they have a case they wish to pursue. Here in this country, which is supposed to be ruled by law, we are saying, `You may not have that information from our human rights commission to decide whether or not you wish to take legal action, to assess your legal position, to exercise your legal rights.'

If this bill is passed, to the shame of this parliament and to the shame of the two parties that will be supporting it, I forecast that we will have an appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Just as they told us that we are still in the Middle Ages in relation to certain laws in Tasmania, they will ask us again, `What are you doing? Are you a civilised nation?'

At last night's committee hearing I put to the committee a number of statements by the United Nations Human Rights Committee which showed quite clearly that the human rights committee interprets article 9 of the ICCPR as obliging countries to provide information in various areas—and not in just the criminal area. It raised a number of areas where information needs to be provided, and it included immigration legislation very specifically. Information falling into that area needs to be and must be provided to individuals.

We are denying here a very important basic human right, and what for? The Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, the Assistant Treasurer (Senator Short), says the heavens will fall in and we will have thousands of people clogging up our courts. Minister, could you tell us how many? I think it would be about 30 at most—probably less.

We were told that 15 per cent of asylum seekers applying for refugee status would possibly go to court. So for that miserable little number we are prepared to throw to the winds a basic principle of justice that our courts should uphold, that this parliament should uphold. Aren't you ashamed of yourself, Minister? The Democrats will certainly oppose this move.