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Lawyer seeks a High Court ruling on four children currently being held in Baxter Detention Centre.

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Friday 31 October 2003

Lawyer seeks a High Court ruling on four children currently being held in Baxter Detention Centre


LINDA MOTTRAM: The lawyer who rose to national pro minence when he took on the government over asylum seekers aboard the Tampa is set for a fresh round in the courts today. 


This time, Eric Vadarlis has taken up the cases of four children currently in detention at the Baxter Centre in South Australia. 


This morning he plans to ask the High Court to rule that their detention is illegal, and that could have far-reaching consequences. 


Elizabeth Byrne reports. 


ELIZABETH BYRNE: With 100 children still in immigration detention in Australia, there's been no let-up in the furious debate over the Government's policy, and that's inevitably led to the courts. 


The most recent high-profile case involved another group of children from the Baxter Detention Centre who were released on a Family Court order.  


The Government's already asked the High Court to overturn the ruling, and the matter is still being considered, but in the course of the hearing several of the High Court judges all but invited a constitutional challenge to the legality of detaining children, and this morning Eric Vadarlis plans to do just that. 


ERIC VADARLIS: It's an application of behalf of four minors who are currently in immigration detention to be released from detention on the basis that such detention is unlawful and against the provisions of the Constitution.  


ELIZABETH BYRNE: The three boys and a girl are siblings and range in age from eight to 15. The application is expected to be heard by High Court Justice Ken Hayne. 


And Labor Immigration Spokeswoman, Nicola Roxon, says the Government can expect more of the same if it continues to keep children in detention. 


NICOLA ROXON: It's, you know, really no place for children to grow up and it's inevitable that there will be challenges about whether it's legal, whether it's appropriate, whether it's in the best interests of the children and I'm sure that there will be plenty of lawyers who will happily argue each of those cases.  


ELIZABETH BYRNE: So far the new Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, has shown no signs of stepping away from the hard-line approach of her predecessor. 


But a spokesman says the Government knows detention centres are not good places for women and children, and in two weeks a project to house more than 50 women and children in the community will open at Port Augusta in South Australia near the Baxter Detention Centre. 


But if Eric Vadarlis has his way the Government's hand may be forced much further. 


ERIC VADARLIS: If the court holds that such detention is unlawful, then it will apply to all minors in detention. So by implication they will all have to be released and the only way around it is for the government to legislate in support of its detention policy. 


LINDA MOTTRAM: Lawyer Eric Vadarlis. Elizabeth Byrne reporting.