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Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Page: 8701


Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (13:30): I move Greens amendment (1):

(1)   Schedule 1, item 25, page 10 (after line 8), after section 198AD, insert:

198ADA 12 month limit on transfer to offshore processing country

(1)   The Minister must ensure that a person who is transferred to an offshore processing country under section 198AD is transferred to Australia no later than 12 months after the day on which the person arrived in the offshore processing country.

(2)   Subsection (1) does not apply in relation to a person who is not in the offshore processing country 12 months after the day on which the person arrived in the country.

(3)   Section 198AD does not apply in relation to a person who is transferred to Australia under subsection (1).

The amendment that I have moved would limit the amount of time that someone is able to be held in detention on an island prison, subject to this act, for a period of 12 months. We are in the extraordinary situation where we are being asked to approve legislation that will allow someone who makes their way to Australia by boat to be taken to another country and to be put in what is effectively a prison for an indefinite and unspecified period.

This parliament and this House should not be asked to approve a piece of legislation before we know for how long a refugee is able to be detained under any of the arrangements struck under this new law. We have heard it said that the period for which someone will be detained may be or is intended to be equivalent to the length of time that it would otherwise have taken for their claim to be processed. We have heard the member for Cook, the shadow minister for immigration, say that that could be 10 years. We have heard other people say that, in some instances, because there is no queue in some of these places it could be a lifetime.

Given that we do not know the length of time, this House should take a very strong stand against the indefinite detention of vulnerable refugees. The amendment I have moved will limit the amount of time that someone can spend in detention to 12 months. I would prefer that mandatory detention did not exist; I would prefer that we had a much speedier process for processing people's asylum claims. But I would hope that 12 months represents a reasonable time that all members of this House could agree to as being an acceptable limit. One reason why 12 months is picked is that we know from the mental health experts that, after that time, there is an extraordinarily high risk that people who have been in detention will self-harm or commit suicide. So if we are concerned, as we have been told we are repeatedly over the last few days, about saving lives of refugees then we should save their lives when they are in detention centres as well. We should put a limit of 12 months detention into the legislation. That is not perfect, but it is a compromise that I hope will be acceptable.

I might also take this opportunity in the consideration in detail stage to ask the minister when he will put before the House the documentation required in this legislation regarding the designation of Nauru and Manus Islands and to explain what arrangements have been reached with Nauru about the number of refugees who will be detained there, and the length of time and the conditions under which they will be detained. I also ask the minister for an indication as to when the other elements of the expert panel's proposal will in fact be implemented. It may not be clear to members of the community, but the proposed safeguards that are spoken about in the Houston report do not form part of this legislation; they form part of an instrument that is meant to be tabled before this parliament. We are told that work will commence as early as this Friday and we are told that people will be moved to these camps, potentially in tents and other temporary structures, as a matter of urgency. Given that that will happen immediately, the parliament is entitled to know before passage of this legislation what the conditions are of the agreements that have been reached and when we will see the disallowable instrument.