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Tuesday, 5 December 2017
Page: 9733


Senator McKIM (Tasmania) (17:22): I was just expounding on the way that the current immigration minister has abused the broad-ranging powers that this parliament has, sadly, seen fit to already give him. Now he's in here again, in a massive overreach, asking for yet more powers. One of the powers that he is asking for in this instrument that we are seeking to disallow is a power around responding to a healthcare debt. You've got to remember, Mr President, that many of these people that we're discussing may have spent years in a detention system, or being persecuted in other countries, or living in Australia on insecure bridging visas or other temporary visas, including temporary protection visas. Once they get a modicum of stability in their life, they are going to be faced with these draconian new conditions that the minister is seeking to impose. That will underscore the already fragile nature of the temporary visa status and, as I said earlier, expose a person potentially to detention and incarceration at the discretion of an immigration department official.

With regard to health debts, in this instrument there is a new condition: that many temporary visa holders should not have an outstanding health debt. This exposes a range of already vulnerable people to the risk of their visas being cancelled and them being thrown into Australia's onshore detention system if they get sick and cannot afford health care. We are proposing to provide the minister for immigration with the powers to detain someone who has had the misfortune of being sick and not being able to pay for health care.

I look around Australia and I've visited onshore detention centres. I've been to Manus Island many times, where Australia is destroying its international reputation with the significant and serious harms that we are deliberately imposing on already vulnerable people. I ask myself, 'What sort of country are we becoming? And why don't I recognise the Australia I grew up in today?' Well, it's because of powers like this, it's because of regulations like this and it's because of ministers like Mr Dutton that I don't recognise the country I grew up in and it's why so many Australians don't recognise the country they grew up in.

This instrument should be disallowed by the Senate on the basis that it is overreach, on the basis that it is punitive and on the basis that it will impact disproportionately on some of the most vulnerable people in the country. I commend this disallowance motion to the Senate.