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Thursday, 16 August 2012
Page: 5661

Senator MILNE (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (19:43): Thank you, Minister, but, as you have also said, the designation does not require any or all of those documents to be available, so it is anybody's guess as to what will be on the table. Senator Hanson-Young spoke about the recommendation of the Houston panel and, yes, in 3.46 it says very clearly that asylum seekers who have their claims processed in Nauru would be provided with protection and welfare arrangements consistent with Australian and Nauruan responsibilities under international law, including the Refugee Convention, and those protections and welfare would include—and they are all the things in the list that my colleague read out. In fact, it is not about whether the Houston recommendations are in legislation or not. The recommendations say in 7, 8, 9 and 10 that everything has to be consistent with Australian and Nauruan responsibilities or PNG responsibilities under international law. Under international law are the conventions, and we have already heard from the minister that Australia is not upholding its international obligations under the treaties, because we have given several examples where Australia is not going to do that.

Specifically in relation to conditions and standards for unaccompanied minors, can the minister clarify that it is true that under this legislation the government is changing something very significant for children who come to Australia unaccompanied? Is it the case at the moment, as a result of the High Court's decision, that the minister shall be the guardian of the person and of the estate in Australia of every non-citizen child who arrives in Australia after the commencement of this act, to the exclusion of the parents and every other guardian of the child, and that the minister shall have, as guardian, the same rights, powers, duties, obligations and liabilities as a natural guardian of the child would have until the child reaches the age of 18 years or leaves Australian permanently, or until the provisions of this act cease to apply in relation to the child, whichever happens first?

Is it not true that the High Court said that, because the minister is the guardian, he has the liabilities that a natural guardian of a child would have and that, in fact, that means currently the government cannot send an unaccompanied child out of Australia while the minister has that guardianship responsibility? Is it not true that in this legislation the government is removing from the minister that guardianship of the child, therefore removing any liabilities or obligations the minister may have as a guardian of that unaccompanied child?

Is it the case that, if this legislation passes, the 10 unaccompanied children on Christmas Island will no longer have Minister Bowen as their guardian, that the minister will have no responsibility for them and no liability for them et cetera, that he will no longer have to sign on the dotted line to have them removed from the country, that they will be able to be removed without his signature? He can exercise his discretion, if he wishes, to do something about them, but the fact is the government and the coalition have come here tonight to remove the guardianship responsibilities of the minister from unaccompanied children. As of tonight, if this bill goes through, those 10 unaccompanied children will no longer have a guardian under Australian law. Is that correct?