Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
10/11/2014

EDGERTON, Mr Graeme, Senior Lawyer, Australian Human Rights Commission

TRIGGS, Professor Gillian, President, Australian Human Rights Commission

CHAIR ( Senator Ian Macdonald ): Welcome. We have your submission, submission No. 4. Thank you very much for being here, Professor. I think you have been to enough of these inquiries to know the rules so I will not waste time repeating them. As I mentioned to you privately, we probably should get a special bedroom for you. Where this committee goes, you are a regular before us and we appreciate the contribution that you and your commission make. If you want to make any alterations or amendments to your submission, now is the time. Apart from that, would you make an opening statement as usual and then subject yourselves to some questions from the committee.

Prof. Triggs : Thank you, Senator Macdonald. We appreciate the opportunity to appear before this Senate committee. It is very important for us to put into oral form the broad arguments we have made in a written submission. That submission is relatively detailed, especially given the time available. I would like to make some opening remarks of more than an abstract kind to give you some sense of where we are coming from and to begin with the idea that Australians are bound by shared values and beliefs. When new citizens make the pledge of commitment, they declare that they share the democratic beliefs of Australia and its people and that they will respect Australian laws, rights and liberties and that they will uphold and obey those laws. So it is not a one-way street. It is important that our citizenship laws are consistent with our democratic values and with the rights and liberties that citizens pledge to respect.

Central to that democratic system is the rule of law. At its most basic, the rule of law means that all people are subject to it. Decisions that affect the rights of individuals should be made in accordance with clear, predictable legal rules that apply to everyone. By acting in accordance with the law, decision making becomes consistent. Decisions should not be subject in principle to the arbitrary individual discretion of particular government officials. This is especially true in relation to those deciding to become Australian citizens. What is at stake is participation as a full member of the Australian community with all the rights and obligations that entails. Over the last 40 years, administrative decision making in Australia has been improved through the system of merits review. If this person is dissatisfied with the decision by government official, that person can go to an independent tribunal which stands in the shoes of the original decision maker and considers whether the decision was correct and preferable.

Many aspects of the bill we are considering today represent a significant shift away from that 40-year trend and a shift away from a rule of law approach by increasing the discretionary power in the hands of the minister to make decisions about who should and who should not be an Australian citizen. The increase in individual discretion and a reduction in independent review rights raises the potential for arbitrary and idiosyncratic decisions. That impacts on the rule of law and the human right to have disputes about legal issues determined by competent, independent and impartial tribunals. The amendments would reduce certainty about citizenship decisions by allowing the minister to revoke citizenship long after it has been granted. That element of citizenship we think is a very important one.

May I give you four very brief examples of the centralisation of discretionary power. The first is that the minister has the power to revoke a person's citizenship if he becomes satisfied that there was a relevant fraud or misrepresentation. This can be done for up to 10 years after citizenship is granted. It would no longer be necessary for allegations of fraud or misrepresentation to be proved in a court. Secondly, for people who require citizenship by descent because they were born overseas to an Australian citizen, the minister can revoke that citizenship if he later becomes satisfied that the person was not of good character at the time their citizenship was registered. Thirdly, the minister can set aside decisions of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal that deal with whether a person was of good character. This entirely reverses the process of merits review by allowing the executive to overrule decisions of an independent tribunal. Fourthly, the minister can prevent administrative decisions about citizenship from being reviewed on the merits by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, by making the decision personally and stating that the decision was in the public interest. These proposed amendments make it particularly difficult for certain classes of persons to become citizens: the children of refugees; people with mental illness who come into contact with the criminal justice system, which is a matter of growing concern to the community in our experience; and, finally, those children that the minister considers are not of good character.

You have been discussing the 10-year rule. There is of course a proposal to wind that back. The bill provides that children who were born in Australia and live here until they turn 10 become citizens on their 10th birthday. The amendments would mean that some 10-year-olds would no longer qualify for citizenship, depending on their visa status. The commission has two concerns about this. First, the government has not put forward any evidence that shows an abuse of the 10 year rule, and all good law-making depends on identifying the mischief on the basis of objective evidence. Second, the amendments to fail to take into account that it is highly likely that after people have lived here continuously for 10 years they will be integrated into the Australian community.

The last comment I would like to make in these opening remarks relates to the proposal to conduct criminal record checks in relation to children to assess whether they are of good character. Many Australian jurisdictions have laws that limit the use that can be made of children's criminal records. Some provide that children's criminal records lapse when they turn 18. The Australian Law Reform Commission considered the issue and suggested that children should not be branded in adulthood by youthful mistakes. Very little detail has been provided about how children's criminal records will be obtained and what use will be made of them in determining whether children are of good character. The commission is concerned that these changes may have significant impacts on the ability of some children to become Australian citizens.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Thank you for your submission. It is quite comprehensive, having regard to the time frame. I think we can move across my issues fairly quickly, because you have had the benefit of having been here when I was examining some of the previous submitters. You say that the criminal history of children lapses. Are you sure that that is exactly what happens or is it that they are sealed and cannot be used?

Prof. Triggs : I might ask my colleague Graeme Edgerton, who is the senior lawyer from the Human Rights Commission advising on this matter to answer that question, because, frankly, I don't know.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: My view is that it is not expunged but sealed and cannot be accessed or used.

Mr Edgerton : I think the position would differ from state to state, but even if it is sealed so it cannot be used the reason for that is that children should not have previous mistakes used against them in, say, future criminal proceedings. We would say that there is an analogy here with citizenship. If you are not going to use children's criminal records when later on you are considering the way in which they should be treated in relation to future criminal charges, probably the same issues would arise when you are considering whether they should be entitled to citizenship.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: But you would accept, would you not, that are some exceptions to these rules? For example, if a child had—let me again use my exaggerated form, because it helps get to the point very quickly—25 convictions for sexual assault on minors during the course of their 16th year, that would be a different set of circumstances if they wanted to apply to be an assistant at a kindergarten in their 17th year. I understand the principle, but you would agree that there are circumstances where there might be occasions when there is an exception to the rule?

Mr Edgerton : I think that is right. There absolutely are, but I don't think that this bill deals with those differences.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: We spoke offline, Professor, about the right of the minister to veto the tribunal's decisions. An earlier witness talked about the cost of this to a subject person, for example, who wanted to appeal the minister's vetoing of a tribunal decision. If the state wanted, in what I imagine would be those fairly rare circumstances, financially to support the applicant in their appeal, would that satisfy you that we would then have a sensible level of merit review processes in place?

Prof. Triggs : Firstly, I am really encouraged by the fact that you are looking for ways that acknowledge the importance of scrutiny and independent processes and judicial review. I think that is important, because that is really what we would hope this committee would start to think about. These provisions at the moment are too stringent and it is absolutely vital that a minister—who of course has a right to make decisions in matters that concern him as an elected representative, but at the same time the democratic process requires checks and balances. You appreciate that in terms of the opportunity for judicial review. That obviously would be better if it were easier to make that appeal. However, I understand the right of judicial review would only apply in relation to certain jurisdictional matters of jurisdictional error. So it would be very limited circumstances, and I believe there would not be a right to reassess the question as to whether a character decision had been made appropriately. So I am not sure that you are really getting to the core problem.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: No, I understand it, but we are law-makers, and if there is a law that prevents proper merit based reviews occurring, we can surely amend the relevant laws to make that possible in this instance. Might I say that there seems to have been, through all the submitters so far, some recurring issues—four or five, in fact. In most instances the submissions have been to red-line or strike them out. Ms Williamson, a previous witness, just does not want the bill to proceed. Would you be more content if there were more rigor, more guidance, parameters set, measures that allow the minister of the day to refer what the intent of this was? For example, if Fred cannot speak English and his mate in Somalia wrote the paper up for him for some reward, because Fred's wife was staying behind and he was in love with Fred's wife, are you saying that the minister could not in those circumstances apply this quite serious revocation of citizenship?

Prof. Triggs : With regard to matters that are really serious, the current law would allow that to be dealt with. The DPP would have to consider that and would presumably bring a prosecution. We think that serious, egregious cases of the Gulliver kind or others that you have been referring to, all of which are important, are matters that could be currently considered under the law as it exists.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Except I made the point—and I treasure your comment—that the burden of my question to previous witnesses in the Gulliver case was in relation to the Director of Public Prosecutions not launching a court action simply because he or she knows that it could not be mechanically discharged—they cannot bring the witnesses, they cannot gather the physical evidence, the Russian government refuses to cooperate or the Lilliputian government refuses to come. I have seen not once, twice or dozens of times but hundreds of occasions where prosecutions have not advanced—someone has died, a witness has had a stroke and therefore they cannot give the evidence required to underpin it. So I do not accept that the DPP not proceeding on a fraud case, for example, is a reflection that there was not a fraud.

Prof. Triggs : Obviously your professional experience demonstrates that there are real problems with the ability of the DPP to bring prosecutions, and I think we do accept that. It is not difficult to respond to that legislatively by looking at, for example, reconsidering the nature of evidence, reconsidering what is admissible and what is not. There are ways of dealing with it. But, to come back to your core question, 'Are there other ways of managing the exercise of discretion by the minister?' I think certainly if it were possible to have guidelines that would regulate it, that would be a step in the right direction. In other words, it could not be a discretion that could apparently be exercised in a capricious manner—not that I am accusing any minister of doing that; I think it would be done in good faith.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: That would be beyond question.

Prof. Triggs : But the difficulty is that, as a matter of democracy and as a matter of proper process, there should be some way of challenging that decision if it has been made for reasons that are not appropriate.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: All right. So then—and this was my lead-in to the exchange that we have just had—as a principle, if there were judicial safeguards—for want of a better term; there may be other types of safeguards—which are capable of being exercised on the basis of merit, on the decisions of the minister in these areas, and which would mean that the crown might support financially the efforts of the appellant, would that satisfy the concerns in your submission? Would that take you some way towards being more comfortable? And I assume that we are not dealing with dozens of cases each day where the minister is going to revoke someone's citizenship because the AAT found that, for example, child paedophilia was not serious enough.

Prof. Triggs : Yes. In fact, if there is any form of merit examination or review of that decision, we would see that as a big step forward. It would meet one of our most serious concerns. I think, underlying our concerns, is the fact that this is being so rushed. The kind of thinking that you are developing is the kind of thinking we would like to see develop over the next few weeks, if it were possible to do so—so that we would have an ability to address the problems that the government quite correctly perceives in upgrading the capacity to deal with these issues, but so that it is done in a way that preserves the balances and the proper checks. And anything that would improve access to merits review in a way that makes sense, in allowing the minister to exercise a discretion, would be valuable.

Can I make one other point though, and I think it is a practical point—that is, that the minister does have a huge number of personal decisions to make. One of our concerns is that—and I think the Chair has referred to the sheer volume of work that not only is existing at the moment but which is coming down the track, with 31,000 asylum seekers waiting to be assessed—the reality is going to be that the minister is probably not going to be able to put his mind to very many of these cases; maybe some, but where he or she does, then obviously the guidelines and the opportunity for some form of merits review on those kinds of issues will be extremely valuable and we would be very happy to see it.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Without burdening you further—and I am speaking for myself here, but the balance of the committee might indicate what they think—I will say that if you had any thoughts which could progress that line of approach but which are not in your submission, I would be more than happy to receive them from you. And if the committee so indicates, I would be more than happy to make a point to circulate that to other members of the committee.

CHAIR: Are you talking about some sort of review of the minister's unfettered decision?

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I am.

CHAIR: But that is really where it is at the moment, under the current law, isn't it?

Prof. Triggs : That is what merits review does.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: No, but it is not there now—particularly where the tribunal has reviewed an appeal on a decision by the minister, the minister can then veto that; that is the end of it, except for a review as to whether the minister remained within due process. So they cannot look at the merits of his decision. And this is a slight extension of that: to open it up for the Court of Appeal—and the argument earlier was that these people cannot afford this. I am saying that, in these circumstances, because it is of such significant importance—without pre-empting what we may decide—the minister might consider funding that appellant, or assisting with the funding of that appellant, so that that kind of appeal is able to happen.

Prof. Triggs : We would certainly be pleased to take up the opportunity to think this through a little bit, and to make some suggestions, provide some clarity as to exactly what the current position is, and suggest how we could meet our concerns in a way that also meets yours. So, if you would be happy, we would get that to you as soon as we reasonably can.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Thank you for that.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Professor, thank you for a very thoughtful and detailed submission, given the time constraints. The discussion that you were just having, I assume, is about a less-than-ideal option, but hopefully still a method to redress the approach that has been taken with this bill around a decline in the use of merits review. Can I take you back to your comments about what would have been more ideal—especially in view of my understanding of how the government presented this bill in the House of Representatives, which was essentially as an update of the act. I am not aware of any consultative process the government has gone through, as opposed to what I presume is advice from the department, to update the act. Are you aware?

Prof. Triggs : No, we are not. We are particularly alert all the time because of the work that we do in the issue in relation to asylum seeker children. This bill appears, in a way, to have anticipated the judgement of the Federal Circuit Court in the baby Ferouz case. In fact, the result in that case was along the lines that the government would have wanted in any event. We have been keeping a very close eye on this because of our concerns for the numbers of children born in Australia of asylum seeker parents. That is obviously a matter of deep concern to the government, but we have certainly not been consulted at all on that or any other issue in relation to this bill.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Or in relation to updating the Citizenship Act?

Prof. Triggs : No, we have not been approached, on the basis that this was a matter of urgent legislative reform.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Sorry, I am addressing the issue aside from the urgency issue just at the moment.

Prof. Triggs : Or of the need at all—yes, the word 'urgent' is not really necessary to the argument. The point is that, if the law were no longer appropriate and the Citizenship Act needed reform, we have not been consulted in relation to that.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Are there any other areas that you are aware that need addressing in an update of the Citizenship Act?

Prof. Triggs : We did have the benefit of hearing your question earlier, and one thing that has been suggested is possibly looking at the surrogacy issue. That is, of course, an extremely difficult matter that we have not really played any role in particularly at the Australian Human Rights Commission, but we can see it as a matter we will have to deal with next year. It is not going to go away. It may very well be that, if you were going to seriously reform the Citizenship Act, for various reasons—conformity with other legislation, for example, or to bring the standards to approximately the same level—it would probably be useful to at least look at the surrogacy question in relation to citizenship as another matter that should be dealt with through the reform process.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Are there other areas?

Prof. Triggs : That is the only one that came to mind immediately, but it might be worthwhile for the committee to look at the Family Law Council's recommendations for reform in relation to the Citizenship Act. Again, these things take a lot of time and, given that this has been done at such speed, it is a pity in the sense that there is a lot of work being done in related areas where you could have a thoughtful process that would take in, for example, the Family Law Council recommendations or consult with bodies like ours, the Law Reform Commission and others in the community to get a more coherent approach to upgrading and updating the citizenship law to the extent that it is identified as necessary.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Have you had an opportunity to look at the department's submission to the inquiry?

Prof. Triggs : I have not.

Mr Edgerton : I have, briefly.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Are there any points other than the points that we have discussed here this morning about the lack of evidence, so to speak, for various of the changes? Are there any other comments that you would like to make to that submission?

Mr Edgerton : To expand on the question of evidence for particular changes?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes.

Mr Edgerton : I think one thing that the Australian Citizenship Council had identified in its report in 2000 was that you would need to have strong evidence of abuse of the 10-year rule before you decided to change the 10-year rule. It is one thing that is discussed in the explanatory memorandum and also in the department's submission. There is not a lot of data in either of them. I think maybe the department's submission is a little more detailed. They suggest that around 400 people a year apply for citizenship under that 10-year rule.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: None of the countries really seem to relate to what you might anticipate as countries of origin for asylum seekers, if I recall.

Mr Edgerton : No. I am not sure whether the issue that the department is identifying is perhaps people overstaying their visas, but I think that the point that the department were trying to make—and I do not want to put words in their mouth—was between people applying under the 10-year rule and people applying for ministerial intervention in relation to asylum seeker cases. They seem to say there was a correlation in the nationalities of people in each group, but I think that that is a far cry from saying that the same people were applying for both. There is not a lot of detail in the department's submission about the way in which those numbers have been trending over time. In our case study in our submission we refer to a particular example of one family that was in that situation with a family of four. The youngest son was an Australian citizen because he was born in Australia, and he was now 13 years old.

CHAIR: Is this the Pak family?

Mr Edgerton : Yes.

CHAIR: Is that mandatory under the new bill—that the child would have to go? Or is it ministerial discretion?

Mr Edgerton : I think under the new bill the child would not automatically become an Australian citizen. But the family, if they did not have an Australian citizen child, would be at risk of being removed from Australia.

CHAIR: I think this what this is an attempt to try and address: a very small minority have the child in Australia and that then becomes their grounds to stay in Australia themselves. I think that is what this is trying to address.

Mr Edgerton : I think it is. And I think that there are very different questions about whether you address right at the start of the process, when they have only just arrived in Australia and maybe just overstayed their visa, as opposed to 10 years later where there are substantial family links and community links within Australia.

CHAIR: Again I am assuming—and I am assuming a hell of a lot, because we have not heard from the department and, as people have pointed out, some of their background has not been terribly fulsome. I am assuming that in cases it takes 10 years to work out that these people have been here illegally for 10 years. I am only guessing. Is there much of that happening that you are aware of?

Mr Edgerton : I think that might be a question for the department.

CHAIR: Yes, certainly it would be.

Mr Edgerton : But certainly in the Pak family case we were provided with submissions from the department which suggested that the number of ministerial intervention applications for that particular group of people—for that particular ethnic group of people—had been declining over time. Coming back to your question about evidence, I think it would be interesting to know how many applications have been made, are they increasing, and are the same people applying for citizenship for their children under the 10-year rule as are applying for ministerial interventions. Or is there just a correlation between ethnic groups?

CHAIR: Before you get off the Pak case, it is not mandatory that the child would go back. In those circumstances, I cannot imagine why any minister would be interested—or that it would even come to his attention. It is one of those things—

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Could I ask a qualifying question, Chair? This denies the child the default citizenship. It does not prevent the child from going down, taking the appropriate application forms and applying to become a citizen—whereas their path to citizenship is different. Is that correct?

Mr Edgerton : No, I do not think that is right. To come back to the chair's question, in this particular case the only reason that the family had the prospect of potentially staying in Australia was because their child was an Australian citizen.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: That is not in conflict with the burden in my question. If a child does not qualify for the default provision—that is, 'I've been here for 10 years to the day. I am now automatically a citizen without further ado.' Let me ask the question this way: does that child have the capacity to take another pathway through to citizenship?

Mr Edgerton : For this particular family, that child would not have, because the requirement for citizenship by conferral would be that you have been in Australia for four years and you have been a permanent resident for a year. For this particular family, they did not have permanent residency status, so that family would not have been able to apply for citizenship for that child.

CHAIR: The child could not apply itself?

Mr Edgerton : No.

Prof. Triggs : Can I also pick up on what I think might have been a little bit behind your question, Senator Macdonald, about the risk of separating the families—that you could have the parents being effectively deported and child staying, in the circumstances of the Pak case, did not comply with the four-year rule and getting a permanent visa. That was not going to work, but let us assume it was going to. You would have the spectre of the child applying and maybe getting it—for reasons we do not need to worry about at the moment—and the family having to be forcibly deported. Of course, in a way that raises the High Court decision in Teoh's case, which you might remember created such a storm when it was decided by the High Court that government officials must take into account the Convention on the Rights of the Child when making these decisions and that they should respect the right of the child to be with their family.

CHAIR: But isn't that what this is about—that the child can stay with the family but back in Korea?

Prof. Triggs : That is another way of doing it, but that was not an issue in the Teoh case. I do think that there is a very strong legal principle, on the basis that Australian law is presumed to comply with international law, that you would not deliberately try to separate the family. I know that is the opposite of the Pak case that Teoh applies, but I still think it is something that the department is aware of. Teoh still exists and it is something that government officials increasingly are conscious of—and they are very unfortunate cases.

I might make the observation that when you are in government, as you are, you are very aware that you are actually going to make decisions on fair grounds, or you are going to try to—that is a given. What we are concerned about is that the effect of the way these laws work can be ones that are at risk of breaching very profound rights of the child or rights of the family—and maybe these are not at the forefront of thinking.

CHAIR: But, if that happened, wouldn't there be some legal redress?

Prof. Triggs : If there were no consideration of the rights of the child, there would be a redress to the extent that you could go to the court and you could say to the court that there is an obligation under Teoh to look at the Convention on the Rights of the Child. That convention, as you may know, is not directly part of Australian law but is part of our mandate at the Australian Human Rights Commission, which is why we have a mandate to talk about it. The court would say, 'That's very interesting but the legislation here is clear, as it was in the baby Ferouz case, that the minister has got two options—deport or consider an application for a visa.' So long as the legislation is clear, the courts have no right to look at the international treaties—and that is the difficulty.

CHAIR: Sorry, Senator Collins, for interrupting you.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I have a final question, which is on timing and the discussion you had earlier with Senator O'Sullivan. How much time do you think you need to properly consider that issue and provide further advice to the committee?

Prof. Triggs : Could we possibly have five days?

CHAIR: Again, we might ask the department. I am not quite sure what the urgency with this bill is. It has been through the House of Representatives—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: We are still confused about that too. We have sought for it to be delayed in the House of Representatives at least to allow for an opposition caucus discussion.

CHAIR: What was the response?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No; we are going ahead.

CHAIR: There was no reason given?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: My suspicion is that the government is lacking in legislation for the House.

CHAIR: Expunge that from the record! I am sure that is not right.

Prof. Triggs : Can I add another one? This is purely a supposition on my part too—I do not know—but I do think that the government was concerned that, had the Federal Court made a different decision on the baby Ferouz case, you would have had more than 200 children applying for visa, citizenship et cetera on the basis of their birth in Australia. As it happened, the Federal Court took a different view, but that is now on appeal. I think the government is concerned to get this legislation in place before that factual circumstance starts to lead to a different legal result than the one they might prefer. I think at least is an indication of the urgency.

CHAIR: That sounds more like it.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But five days should still allow sufficient time.

Prof. Triggs : I think it would be worth exploring how we can balance the need for checks and balances with the minister's concern in those greyish areas. The clear ones—clear fraud or misrepresentation and any evidence to support it—will be catered for under current legislation, but the ones that are further down the track are more difficult.

CHAIR: Are you normally consulted on these sorts of issues?

Prof. Triggs : Historically—and certainly over the last few years—we are very readily consulted by the relevant department that wants to make change. On this issue we were not. I believe that that is the case. To my knowledge we have not been consulted at all on this. It literally landed on our desk.

CHAIR: Again, I think Senator Collins has already flagged the question of what consultation there was. I am one of those that think government may take absolutely no notice of what you say, but at least you have the opportunity to alert the draftsman and the department to a few issues that perhaps they have not considered.

Prof. Triggs : That is how we normally work. We spend a great deal of our time, behind the scenes in a way, working with the department—or any department, for that matter—in any area of legislation that affects us. That occurs increasingly through the scrutiny of the Joint Committee on Human Rights—the scrutiny committee. If I may say so, that is proving to be a very productive relationship, because it means that we can get human rights concerns earlier to the attention of parliament and they can be taken into account.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Just as long as they can table their report before we deal with a piece of legislation.

Prof. Triggs : Exactly. The speed is a problem. You cannot have careful thinking on these drafting problems. We end up with a very confused legislative body of work in the Migration Act, which we are all having trouble understanding—as well as the Australian Citizenship Act. They have now become so complex that ordinary people certainly cannot read them. It is very difficult, even for people like us who are working with these things all the time. That is the difficulty. Every time you add another amendment or you make a change you have twisted or diverted the existing legislation and it becomes even more confusing. That is why we would argue for more time to look at this as a serious exercise in something that is fundamental to Australia's future, which is our citizenship arrangements.

CHAIR: We might have to hurry along. Are there any other particularly urgent questions?

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I have a quick observation and one question. For clarification, on these issues with the automatic child citizenship, this is not confined to refugees; this could very well be a couple of very well to do Lilliputians who have decided to come to Australia and have a better go at life. They could come in on a tourist visa and hide out immediately like a dedicated arrangement. So I just want to make the point that this is not all about people who are here as refugees from—

Prof. Triggs : Not at all. I do not mean to divert the discussion too much in that area.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I may have been wrong on this, Professor Triggs. You did not make mention of the issue to do with the adult adoption. Is it fair comment that you did not submit on that in your opening statement? You covered points that were important to you.

Mr Edgerton : I do not think that was part of our submission.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: And the reason? You submission is your submission, but do you not have concerns with the provisions relating to adult adoption?

Mr Edgerton : I just do not think we have had a chance to consider that in a lot of detail.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Okay.

Prof. Triggs : We decided to go for the particular provisions that were of the greatest concern to us, knowing full well that there is a lot in that bill. There are many, many more provisions, as a matter of fact, that need to be looked at.

CHAIR: Thank you very much Professor Triggs and Mr Edgerton for your help. If you want, you can respond to some issues. I lost track of what the five days were that you were seeking.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I asked whether they want to give us an alternative thought about how there might be judicial reviews that are merit based. They said, 'We'll try and get something to you in five or six days.'

CHAIR: If you could do that, we have to report by—

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Will that be for general circulation? Everybody would like to see that, obviously.

CHAIR: It will come to the secretariat.

Prof. Triggs : We will work to get back to you.