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Thursday, 16 June 2005
Page: 165

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) (8:52 PM) —That is simply not the case. The government has an arrangement around Australia whereby the detention officers can be privately contracted. That is not going to change—not through this legislation. I have just been discussing this with the officials. They tell me you will simply be unable to have in the same facility two different classes of people. You cannot have three detained people intermingled amongst another 20. What if one of them tries to escape? Which day is it? It is day 3. That guy there has been charged, so he is an immigration detainee. So, as he jumps over the wall and tries to escape, the private contractors can tackle him. But the guy with him has only just come in. He is under fisheries detention, so the Commonwealth employee will have to be the one to tackle him. If we happen to get it wrong, we will be in all sorts of trouble. That is how ridiculous it is.

You would have to have two lots of officials there, looking after two groups of people. Perhaps we would have to get one group to wear red shirts and the other to wear white shirts or something so that we knew which official could deal with whom. We are not going to, Senator O’Brien, much as you might think it is a good idea. Perhaps in another debate you could persuade me it is a good idea, but it is not happening in this debate. There are arrangements in place by the immigration department right around Australia, not just in this detention centre but everywhere else. We are not going to have the detention officers right around Australia become government employees just so that we do not have a contrary situation with two or three Indonesian fisherman in there for two or three days. You will understand that it is simply not something the government can accept.

The alternative is that we can put them in a different facility. There is not another facility in Darwin. We can separate them, though, by leaving them on the boat for up to the maximum of seven days until either they are charged or we decide not to charge them. Immediately we decide to charge them or not to charge them, they become immigration detainees anyhow. Then they can go on the land base. That means that you are going to be forcing the fisheries detainees to remain on their boats because there is not another facility. The government will not be building another facility for two or three days. You are going to make that an alternative that the government will have to seriously consider.

We do not want to do that. We want to get them off the boats and into a land based facility, where they will be properly cared for, at the earliest possible time. That is why it is essential that the same sets of rules apply to all those who are in the detention facility. I again ask the Senate to consider that, whilst you may have ideas of principle on the wider argument, in relation to this particular impact of that argument it is completely unworkable. If the amendment were passed, it would make it unworkable. The detainees would have to be detained in another facility, probably on their boats. That is what we are trying to get out of doing through this legislation.