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Thursday, 19 March 2015
Page: 1929


Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (12:29): The Australian Greens oppose part 1 of schedule 1 in the following terms:

(4) Schedule 1, Part 1, page 4 (lines 2 to 25), to be opposed.

These are amendments being made to the issue of burden of proof and new claims.

This is one of the issues that was raised consistently throughout the Senate committee process—particularly, a number of legal experts are concerned about changing the expectations and shifting the burden of proof onto asylum seekers, particularly those who have been traumatised for many years in having to flee persecution and then again, of course, through Australia's detention process.

Remember that this bill will impact directly on those who have been considered to be part of the legacy caseload. These are people who have not been able to have their claims dealt with up until now. The idea that without legal assistance—that we have just seen voted down in this place—the burden of proof is shifted to them in such a unfair and unbalanced way, I think—and this is the Australian Greens view—is going to put lives at extreme risk. We are quite concerned about it.

Also, of course, there is the issue of the new claims element—identity documents—and how that impacts on family members. When they have been on their journey as a refugee for a number of years, many people—for example, people who have fled Afghanistan four or five years ago and who are now living in Australia—have not been able to put forward their claim. The circumstances in their home towns in Afghanistan has changed a lot in the last four or five years. Often the safety of family members has been impacted throughout that time—those who remained behind. In fact, we continue to hear, sadly, on a very regular basis that asylum seekers who are living here in Australia and waiting for their refugee claims even to be started are getting awful phone calls or notices from home that their sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters or family members have been targeted and killed by the Taliban throughout that process, over that long period of time that they have been waiting to get their refugee claim sorted and, of course, for family reunion.

We have already put these people through enough. The shifting of the burden of proof and not allowing an understanding of the very real impacts of this time lag are having very real life-and-death impacts on them and their families. It is a little callous—just trying to ignore the realities of that. So that is what this amendment is about, and I hope there are other members in this place who are willing to support this amendment. It is not outlandish, it is simply about trying to put a bit more balance into this legislation.