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Wednesday, 17 November 2004
Page: 88


Senator BARTLETT (Leader of the Australian Democrats) (2:58 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and is also relevant to her capacity today as the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Is the minister aware of the case currently being heard by the High Court of Australia which involves an appeal of the legality of the Nauru government's detention of asylum seekers on that island? Is it the case that the Nauruan director of police is challenging our High Court's competency to hear this appeal and the constitutionality of one of Australia's laws? Is it also the case that the Australian government is funding counsel for Nauru to prosecute that case but is not providing funding for counsel for the Commonwealth of Australia to defend our own law?


Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) —There is a case, I think being heard at the moment if not pending. The Australian government is funding the Nauruan government in relation to this matter. As I understand it—and I will check—that is part of an agreement in relation to having the immigration centre on Nauru and the funding of legal costs associated with that. We are not giving advice to the Nauruan government as to the conduct of that matter. It is up to them how they choose to conduct it. If I have anything further to add, Senator, I will come back to you.


Senator BARTLETT —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister confirm that the Australian government is not providing any counsel to represent the Australian government's and the Commonwealth of Australia's side in defending the validity of our own laws? Is it the case that we are not engaging as the Australian government other than to provide funding for the foreign government to challenge the validity of our own laws?


Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) —The answer is as I have given to you: we are funding the Nauruan government for the conduct of the action. As I understand it, we are not a party to the action ourselves.