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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26499


Senator GREIG (1:49 PM) —The Australian Democrats oppose schedule 1 in the following terms:

(1) Schedule 1, page 3 (line 2) to page 17 (line 16), to be opposed.

Democrat amendment (1) seeks to oppose schedule 1 and therefore remove it from the bill. With this amendment, the Democrats are not saying that there is no need for the Passports Act to be updated. We agree that the time for legislative changes has probably come; however, we have some concerns with the provisions in schedule 1, which we believe need to be worked through carefully. We agree with the shadow minister for homeland security that there is a compelling reason to expedite the passage of schedule 3 to this bill and we are willing to support the passage of that schedule. However, the government has made it difficult for us to do so by coupling it with schedules 1 and 2, which the Democrats are not prepared to pass in their current form. What we are saying to the government with respect to schedule 1 is: `Go back and start again.'

In its current form, the schedule raises a number of issues. As I said in my speech during the second reading debate, the Democrats have a number of concerns with the changes proposed in schedule 1, and these concerns were confirmed by evidence in the Senate committee. We are persuaded by the argument of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, which argues that an order for the surrender of foreign documents should be made only where a foreign arrest warrant, court order, bail or parole condition relates to a matter which is also a serious offence under Australian law. The Democrats do not believe that the minister's power should be predicated on the existence of an arrest warrant issued by a foreign court without any consideration of the nature of the laws of the legal system of the foreign country or the reasons for the issue of the warrant. You may recall that the example I gave during my speech on the second reading debate was in relation to adultery and sharia law and whatnot from a Middle Eastern country.

One of the primary concerns that the Democrats have with schedule 1 is the potential impact on refugees and asylum seekers. We are disturbed by the evidence that the new provisions may be inconsistent with the convention relating to the status of refugees. The Democrats believe that there is a need for a defence of reasonable excuse in relation to foreign travel document offences and that this defence should expressly apply to asylum seekers and refugees. As I have said, the Democrats also have serious concerns with the restrictions, on review of the minister's decision to order the surrender of foreign travel documents. The limitations placed on the AAT are unacceptable, particularly given the enormous impact of the minister's decision on a person who is subsequently prevented from leaving Australia.

Given the likelihood that the minister's decision will relate either to international relations or to criminal intelligence, the AAT in almost all cases will be restricted either to affirming the minister's decision or to remitting the decision to the minister for reconsideration. So there is a range of concerns that we Democrats have with schedule 1 in its current form, and we do not believe it should be expedited in the same way as schedule 3. We believe the government should go away and attempt to address the concerns raised in evidence to the Senate committee, particularly the concerns about the potential impact on refugees and the severely limited review mechanisms. It is on that basis the Democrats are opposing schedule 1. Madam Temporary Chairman I seek leave to move Democrat amendment (2) now so that it may be dealt with together with amendment (1).

Leave granted.


Senator GREIG —The Democrats oppose schedule 2 in the following terms:

(2) Schedule 2, page 18 (line 2) to page 20 (line 20), to be opposed.

Democrat amendment (2) seeks to oppose schedule 2 and, consequently, to remove it from the bill. Our concerns are somewhat different from the concerns I have expressed with schedule 1. In this instance our concerns are more substantive: we are not asking the government to go away and redraft schedule 2; we are simply asking it to abandon this schedule altogether. The Democrats strongly oppose the provisions of schedule 2, primarily because they enable travel documents to be seized from innocent Australians who are not even suspected of involvement in terrorism. Unfortunately, this is already provided for under section 34JC of the ASIO Act; however, schedule 2 takes that one step further by enabling the seizure of documents before a prescribed authority has issued the questioning warrant, before the request has even been made to the prescribed authority and before the Attorney-General has even consented to the making of the request for a questioning warrant. As I said in my contribution to the second reading debate, these provisions have incredibly serious consequences and we cannot support them. We believe they both ought to be removed from the bill.