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Monday, 20 August 2018
Page: 7706


Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (12:09): I rise to make a few brief remarks on the Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2018. I will speak to this in more detail when it proceeds to the Senate, because it seems that yet another home affairs bill is passing this House with the opposition's support. As is well known, the Greens did not support the creation of the home affairs department and the concentration of such a significant amount of power under a minister who, frankly, sends a shiver down the spine of most people in this country. The idea of having him having ever more power, including by this bill, is something that most people would find extraordinarily frightening.

Whilst there might be a number of items in this bill that are so-called technical and miscellaneous, as has been suggested by the government and the opposition, one of the things that I didn't hear examined in the contribution from the Labor Party was the provisions in schedule 1 and, in particular, what the Joint Committee on Human Rights had to say about them. As we know, in Australia, because we have this bipartisan approach to offshore detention, which is breaking people and killing people, someone who comes into Australia seeking our help isn't met with an open hand; they're met with a closed fist. We send them into, effectively, prisons. In those prisons, where they are indefinitely detained—some of those prisons were opened by the Labor Party, but the government is continuing to run them—we know it breaks those people. At the moment we're seeing children, some of whom have known no other life than a life in detention, increasingly reaching breaking point and being unable to function, and sometimes their parents are unable to look after them because they're spending their lives locked up as well.

One of the things that this bill does is deal with the situation of people who've come here seeking our help and who are then sent back—because that's what we do now in this country; we don't look after them and process their claims; we try and send them back—they're sent back and then, when they're sent back, they're refused entry and then potentially returned back to Australia again. This bill attempts to deal with some of the situations that might arise there. You've come to Australia seeking help; you get turned away, put on a plane and sent back; the place that they send you back to doesn't want to take you. What happens to you then? What this bill says is: if the plane turns around and brings you back to Australia, you still have no rights.

Think about this for a moment. In the situation where, if you're leaving country A and coming to Australia, and Australia sends you back to country A, and country A then says, 'No, we don't want this person—turn the plane around and send them back to Australia'—you would think that would be a very good indication that they are not safe in country A, if country does not want them. But no: what will happen under this bill is that it's made clear, by reference to the changes to the Migration Act, that when they come back here it's as if we maintain the legal fiction that they were never entitled to anything in the first place and—this is of great concern—they remain barred from coming back and seeking assistance again.

This is why the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights raised the red flag about this bill. You would think that if you come to Australia and get knocked back, and part of the reason for getting knocked back might be that Australia says, 'We think you could actually be safe in your country of origin', if Australia tries to send them back to the country of origin and the country of origin says, 'No' and they come back to Australia, you would think the officials in the Australian department might say, 'Maybe we need to reassess this application. They're not welcome in that third country, after all. That third country does not want to take them, so perhaps we ought to, at a minimum, re-assess their application.' What this bill does is say, 'No, in that situation, you have absolutely no right to put in a further application.' The fact that your country of origin—it might be your country of origin or it might be a completely different country—has said, 'We don't want you,' means nothing to Australia now. That's what this bill says.

On any sensible reading, you would think that that's a relevant factor that should be taken into account when someone makes the decision again. You would think that that person, at the very least, ought to have the right to come back to the Australian government and say: 'Look, you've just tried to send me over to this other country'—perhaps it was the country they came from or perhaps it was somewhere else—'and they've turned the plane around. You ought to reassess my application on the basis of that new information and take it into account, because this is one of the things I've told you. It is the reason I fear for my safety. It's relevant to my circumstances. Take it into account. They've just turned the plane around on me. In the last 24 hours you've tried to deport me, and now I'm back here because there's nowhere for me to go.' You would think that, in that instance, at the very least, you could put in a new application and it would be considered on its merits. You would think that that is probably proof of or evidence towards what that person has been saying in the first place—but, no, under this, there is a statutory bar on applying.

The parliamentary joint committee raised concerns about this. It requested advice from the minister about it and said, 'This potentially does not comply with some of our obligations but, in any event, it's probably not a fair thing to do under Australian law and so we shouldn't do it.' You would think that, in that instance, that's something that the government would consider seriously. Even if you want to keep up the hardline border policy—which we know that Labor and the Liberals do—or even if you want to do it as a stepping stone to trying to become Prime Minister, you would think that, as a basic principle, you would say, 'If there's new information, it should be taken into account.' It's not even necessarily automatically opening the door; it's just saying 'take it into account'. But that's not where we're at. This bill can't be described as simply a technical bill or simply only about miscellaneous matters. The Greens will be giving this matter further examination when it comes to the Senate. At the moment, we can't support this bill.