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Thursday, 15 September 2011
Page: 6231

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (15:02): On 12 September, Senator Hanson-Young asked me a question about asylum seekers. I seek leave to incorporate the answer in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows—

Thursday 15 September

Response to Question from Senator Hanson-Young—Taken on notice Monday 12 September

Senator Hanson-Young:

Does the Government now accept the Minister for Immigration has a conflict of interest in looking after the children he is a legal guardian for and in his role as Immigration Minister making decisions about whether to deport them or not?

This Government believes that its overriding obligation is to stop unaccompanied minors risking their lives by taking the dangerous boat journey to Australia. We believe our overriding obligation is to say to parents, 'do not risk the lives of your children on the prospect of being granted an Australian visa.'

The High Court's decision has made it clear that the current law creates significant obstacles to unaccompanied minors being removed from Australia, even where they have been found not to be a refugee at both the primary and review stages, have exhausted all judicial appeals and have no authority to remain in Australia. That, in the view of the Government, is not a sustainable policy.

The broader issue of the guardianship of unaccompanied minors is something that the Government may consider down the track. However, in the short term, the Government considers it essential that legislation be passed to restore the situation to how it had been previously understood—that the Minister is required to consider the best interests of a child for whom he is the guardian, without limiting necessary obligations and powers under the Migration Act.

The Government's proposed legislative amendments are essential to ensuring that there are no blanket exemptions with regard to who is subject to the provisions of the Migration Act. Blanket exemptions inevitably create a perverse incentive for people smugglers to send children on the dangerous boat journey to Australia.