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Thursday, 16 August 2012
Page: 5680


Senator MILNE (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (21:24): I can tell you, and everybody in this parliament knows, that it is a fact that when governments decide not to provide information they can easily do it through all sorts of processes that avoid FOI and that protect people in ministerial offices. I will be very interested in Senator Lundy's responses when we get to the bottom of how it is that the Minister for Home Affairs, Jason Clare, did not know until 9 August that there was a boat missing, in spite of the fact that the Palestinians had informed the government three weeks before that that was the case. No doubt the government will be very forthcoming. Now that we can have absolute confidence that nothing will be withheld from the parliament I look forward to that. I would like Senator Lundy to tell me, if she has such great confidence in the ability of the parliament to get to the bottom of things, how it is that we never got to the bottom of SIEVX and how it is that the parliamentary committee involved never got to the bottom of it. The ALP at the time agreed that we needed a royal commission, because people who were in ministerial offices were not required to front up and so did not have to say what really went on. There are people who do know what went on, but this parliament does not.

Let us get to the guts of what Senator Lundy was just saying about a review. It is not about asking for the detail of the review. You have said that there is no legally binding protection here, that the parliament will scrutinise the documents that are the arrangements. Then you have said that there is no need for those arrangements actually to be in the documentation that comes to the parliament, although it will be the parliament that scrutinises the arrangements. On that basis, I need to know that I as a member of parliament can go to Nauru and Manus Island and that I can be confident that lawyers and other people can go there and test whether or not the government is delivering what it says it is going to deliver, since there is no legal scrutiny available and no requirement to provide natural justice or guardianship for the children.

I might say, Senator Lundy, that the ALP at its national conference voted to say that children needed to have an independent guardian—not the minister, but an independent guardian. You have abandoned any guardian. There is no guardian at all for those unaccompanied children who might be sent offshore. I want an answer. It is not about providing the detail about how it is going to operate. I ask for an unequivocal guarantee that these detention centres will be open to the scrutiny of the parliament. Since you have removed the courts, removed natural justice and removed everything else, there is only the parliament. I want an unequivocal guarantee that parliamentarians, lawyers and human rights advocates will have access to those detention centres. Otherwise, there is no review, no accountability, whatsoever.