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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Page: 2715


Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (10:45): The first amendment that the Australian Greens are moving this morning in relation to this bill is to allow for the Australian Human Rights Commission to visit, inspect and report on the conditions and what is going on in offshore detention centres that are run by Australia and paid by for Australian taxpayers. We know, at the moment, they are on Manus Island and Nauru. This is a very important amendment. We know that the Human Rights Commission has these rights in Australian mainland detention centres. They are able to go to detention centres, inspect what is going on, talk to people about their cases and talk to people about the conditions that they are experiencing in those places.

The importance of this amendment is that it allows for the same rights and obligations that the Human Rights Commissioner has already for Australian based detention centres and, indeed, on Christmas Island to be similar to those for detention centres that we have further offshore on Manus Island and Nauru. It would allow the Human Rights Commissioner to go in, inspect, look at the conditions of what these camps are like and deal with any complaints or issues that come out of that. It is really important because, as we know, these centres are costing Australian taxpayers billions of dollars. The legal rights of the refugees who are locked up there indefinitely have been taken away. There is currently no transparency at all on Manus Island and Nauru.

I previously wrote to the minister about this. I raised this with the department in Senate estimates. It is clear that, unless we change the Migration Act, which is what this amendment does, there is no ability for the Australian Human Rights Commission—Australia's peak human rights body—to inspect what is going on in these places. When you look at the reports that have come out and when you hear the stories of people who have said how they were treated in these god-awful places, then you know something is going on and we need a bit more transparency.

For the Australian Human Rights Commission to be able to go in and inspect is a really important thing for us and this chamber to do. We think that it is okay for it to happen in Australian based centres and it is all okay for it to happen on Christmas Island; let us make sure it is there for the refugees who are sent offshore. Let us not forget that these people are there indefinitely, as the government has this open-ended 'no advantage' rule. The children, their families, and the young men and women who are detained in these places could be there for five, 10 or 15—who knows how many—years. To allow for some proper transparency would go a long way to making sure that Australian taxpayers and members of our community who are concerned about issues of human rights and how we treat our fellow human beings can have some assurance that there is somebody watching what is going on.

It is an important amendment and I would ask for the government and the opposition to support it. If they are not going to support it, I would ask for the minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship in this chamber today to explain why the government does not want to see this type of basic transparency available to the Australian Human Rights Commission in these god-awful places.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Senator Hanson-Young, before you formally move your amendments, because there are two of them you have to seek leave to move them together.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: by leave—I move the two amendments that relate to the Human Rights Commissioner having access to detention centres together:

(1) Schedule 1, page 6 (after line 28), after item 18, insert:

18A After subsection 198AB(6)

   Add:

   (6A) If the Minister designates a country or has previously designated a country under subsection (1), the Minister must:

   (a) ensure that the country provides assurances that it will provide the Australian Human Rights Commissioner with access to any place where a person who is an unauthorised maritime arrival for the purposes of this Act is detained, housed or otherwise held;

   (b) ensure that the country provides assurances that the Commissioner's access to such places will be equivalent to the access that the Commissioner would have if the person was detained, housed or otherwise held in a place located in Australia.

(2) Schedule 1, page 12 (after line 14), after item 60, insert:

60A Application provision—subsection 198AB(6A)

   Subsection 198AB(6A) of the Migration Act, as inserted by this Schedule, applies in relation to a designation that is made before or after commencement.