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Thursday, 16 August 2012
Page: 5639

Senator MILNE (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (18:02): Thank you for that clarification. Now I understand that any unaccompanied child amongst those more than 200 people who have been intercepted and not given refuge in our country should be taking on notice that they are at risk of being sent to Nauru or Manus Island should this parliament determine that. I also note in the legislation that the effect of new clause 198AD(8) is that the only consideration for the minister in making a direction under the new clause 198AD(5) is that the minister thinks it is in the public interest to do so, and it provides that the rules of natural justice do not apply to the performance of the duty under clause 198AD(5). The purpose of that is to make clear that the minister is not required to give an offshore entry person a right to be heard, for individuals who may be taken to one or more regional processing countries, in relation to the particular regional processing country he or she is to be taken to. Natural justice would involve seeking and taking into consideration the comments of particularly affected individuals.

Are we really saying that in Australia we specifically want to say in a piece of legislation that natural justice will not apply and the reason is that we do not want to give people the right to be spoken to for consideration of potentially affected individuals? You are saying that if natural justice were not excluded as a ground of review it would in effect mean that the minister could not designate a regional processing country or direct an officer to take a person there until the person had been talked to. I find it absolutely shocking, Minister, that we are specifying in a piece of legislation that only the minister can decide what the national interest is and the minister is exempted from natural justice.

I thought we lived in a country that respected the rule of law and gave people a fair go. We are now saying that we are going to hand over to the minister and make it his decision to determine what the national interest is. It is such a broad concept that to determine what is in the national interest he can take into account many things, including border security, national security, defence and anything the minister wants to take into account. The minister personally determines what is in the national interest, and he is then exempted from providing natural justice to a person seeking asylum. I want you to tell me why it is a good idea to give sole right of discretion on what the national interest is to the minister and why it is necessary to take natural justice away from refugees.