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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 10047


Mr THISTLETHWAITE (Kingsford Smith) (20:30): Here we again have the immigration minister mischaracterising this debate. This is about Australia's proud history of promoting protection for those fleeing significant harm and persecution. It is a principle that has been upheld in our law since World War II. This bill, particularly schedule 2, seeks to overturn that significant principle that has been part of Australian values and culture for many, many years.

Complementary protection is a reform that was introduced by Labor. As the shadow minister has pointed out, it applied to those for whom protection was not obliged to be offered under the convention when at times there were circumstances where it was found people should be offered some form of protection. They may not have been refugees under the definition in the convention, but they were afforded protection. That was in circumstances such as genital mutilation or forced marriages for young women in particular societies. These amendments that are before the parliament at the moment seek to change the test in schedule 2 from 'a real chance' of that persecution occurring should someone be returned to 'more likely than not'. It is unfair and it is contrary to international agreements and commitments that Australia has signed up to.

Further, in the Senate inquiry into this particular bill, particularly into schedule 2, it was conceded by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection that the meaning and application of 'more likely than not' was expressed inconsistently between the explanatory memorandum and the minister in the second reading speech. The department's submission was such to the inquiry. The confusion surrounding the threshold for complementary protection centred on whether it would be interpreted by decision makers as 'on a balance of probabilities' or a quantifiable 'greater than 50 per cent real chance' test. These inconsistencies between the minister and his department's interpretation of the effect of the proposed changes added to Labor's concerns. They could potentially put vulnerable people seeking Australian protection at risk of persecution, death or serious harm if they were returned to their home countries.

Item 17 in schedule 4 on offering oral statements without a requirement for written reasons to be given to an applicant regarding a decision in the Migration Review Tribunal or Refugee Review Tribunal is something that Labor is opposed to. We see no reason for this reform. It is not a big cost. There is no particular reason if an oral statement is given the decision maker should not therefore go on to provide written reasons. For those reasons, the shadow minister has moved the amendments and we seek the support of the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Vasta ): The question is that the amendments be agreed to.