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Thursday, 16 June 2005
Page: 158


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) (8:20 PM) —The government opposes both of these amendments. Senator Bartlett, we are trying to bring together the Fisheries Management Act and the Torres Strait Fisheries Act and to align them with the obligations, powers and duties under the Migration Act insofar as detained fishermen are concerned. Your amendment—although I am sure this was not what you intended—would have the exact opposite effect. You are proposing amendments only to the Fisheries Management Act and not to the Torres Strait act, so you are going to have them out of sync anyhow. It also makes them unworkable in relation to another bill that is coming before the Senate later on tonight, hopefully. This issue was raised by the committee, I have to say. They detected a technical problem with the bill, which was raised in the committee report and which the government is actually amending, but it relates to those same issues. So, in relation to that, we would be opposing the first of your amendments. The second of your amendments changes the objective section of the detention schedule to remove references to the transition from fisheries detention to immigration detention and focuses on the repatriation of detainees.

This amendment and others that you are proposing later seem to suggest that illegal foreign fishers should not be held in immigration detention after they have been held in fisheries detention or before they are repatriated. This proposition is simply not acceptable. Once a person has ceased to be in fisheries detention, they are an illegal noncitizen under the Migration Act, and it is mandatory under the Migration Act that illegal noncitizens are detained and repatriated as soon as possible. In the fisheries context, repatriation normally takes place, as I mentioned earlier, in a short period of time. We reject both of the amendments that you have proposed.