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Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 497

Senator McKIM (Tasmania) (15:27): I move:

That the Senate take note of Senator Brandis's response to my questions relating to the forcible deportation of people from Manus Island.

I am glad Senator Brandis has remained in the chamber. I will take this opportunity, for his edification, to read a little bit more of the legal advice of Professor Jane McAdam from the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at University of New South Wales, because I genuinely believe it puts the lie to Senator Brandis's claim that no-one is having their rights trammelled here. Before I do that I want to be very clear that the Attorney-General's responses both this morning and this afternoon in this chamber regarding the ongoing forcible deportation of detainees from Manus Island were not only intellectually vacuous, not only an abrogation of his moral responsibilities as a human being, but an abandonment of the rule of law, which Senator Brandis professes to care so much about.

The reason I say that last point is that Professor McAdam in her opinion, which is on the website of the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, says, as I quoted earlier this afternoon: 'Papua New Guinea's refugee status determination process is inconsistent with international law in a number of significant respects.'

Then, importantly, it goes on to make this point: 'People's protection needs are not assessed against Papua New Guinea's obligations under international human rights treaties, which means that there is no assessment of whether they may be sent back to face a real risk of being arbitrarily deprived of their life, tortured, or exposed to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.' That is the opinion of an extremely—and rightfully—highly regarded professor with significant—

Senator Brandis: I bet you've never heard of her before!

Senator McKIM: You can say that you have never heard of her before, but that does genuinely surprise me.

Senator Brandis: I bet you've never heard of her before!

Senator McKIM: Well, I have.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I remind senators to address their remarks to the Chair. Thank you.

Senator McKIM: I am surprised that Senator Brandis, I think, said that he had never heard of her—

Senator Brandis: I said, 'I bet you've never heard of her before!'


Senator McKIM: Well, you are wrong, George, again, as you so often are! But I want to go now, very clearly, to the moral obligations and the international human rights obligations that Australia has here. Firstly, I point out that, in fact, people on both Manus Island and Nauru are being tortured using Australian taxpayers' money and at the orders and requests of our country. We know that Amnesty International, an organisation that never makes this sort of claim lightly, has found that the treatment of people detained on Nauru—and the conditions in which they are held there, including, significantly, indefinite detention—absolutely fit with accepted international legal definitions of what comprises torture. So let us make no mistake here: Australia is torturing people. Senator Brandis can shake his head all he likes, but the simple fact is that this allegation was made last year, and it is has never been substantively rebutted.

Senator Brandis: On a point of order, Madam Deputy President: as I tried to point out to Senator McKim in answer to his question—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Brandis, that is a debating point—

Senator Brandis: the High Court has decided—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: That is a debating point. Please resume your seat.

Senator Brandis: that the detention—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Brandis, that is a debating point. Please resume your seat. I would ask that you respect the Deputy President. That is a debating point. I asked you two or three times to resume your chair.

Senator McKIM: You are right, Chair, it is a debating point, and it is about a grade 7 or 8 debating team point, if I might say so myself. This is the legal fiction, the legal fig leaf that the government hides behind here. But what Senator Brandis cannot avoid is that it is Australian government policy that results in this torture. He cannot avoid that it is Australian taxpayers' money allocated by his government that is funding this torture, and he cannot avoid the fact that our fellow human beings, who have done nothing wrong and who have reached out a hand to Australia for help and assistance in their time of desperate need, are being tortured, are being treated inhumanely and are losing hope in Australia's offshore detention centres.

I want to end by saying in a very sombre and guarded way that the temperature at the moment is very high in Lombrum in particular on Manus Island. I was the Minister for Corrections and Consumer Protection in Tasmania for nearly four years, and I know what happens when the temperature goes up in detention facilities. There is a risk of violence and harm, and I do not want to see that in Lombrum or anywhere else. Finally, I want to say: if someone dies as a result of being sent back to their country of origin, Senator Brandis will have their blood on his hands. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.