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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 3821


Senator BARTLETT (Queensland) (18:17): I move:

That the Senate take note of document nos 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.

I'd like to move to take note collectively of documents 5, 6 and 7—documents relating to the Migration Act 1958, section 486O, the Commonwealth Ombudsman's reports for 2018, Nos. 17, 18 and 19, on assessment of detention arrangements—and documents 8, 9 and 10: government responses to those Commonwealth Ombudsman's reports for 2018, dated 21 June 2018. These documents are all related. I've spoken a number of times to these documents since I returned to this place.

These documents being tabled are a direct result of amendments made to the Migration Act, back in the time when I was in this chamber over 10 years ago. It was meant to be an accountability mechanism for people who were in long-term immigration detention for more than two years. Unfortunately, it has become more of a mechanism to describe the litany of unnecessary human misery and suffering of people that have been in detention for four or even five years, where the Ombudsman just keeps assessing their case and the same situation applies. In many cases, even when recommendations are made, the minister doesn't act on them anyway.

And the same applies to these three documents. There are a whole lot of cases here. One hundred and fifty-nine people are covered by this. These are the 17th, 18th and 19th reports of the Commonwealth Ombudsman on these. Just these three documents alone cover 159 people who've been locked up, despite never having committed a crime. I wanted to take the opportunity today to just mention one example.

Firstly, I will take the opportunity, as my colleague Senator McKim mentioned today, to talk about the Tamil family in my own state of Queensland. I mention this a lot because it has captured the imagination of the people of Queensland. This family was in the community of Biloela in Queensland. This was straightforward, blatant, ridiculous injustice. This family had done nothing wrong. They had lived productively in a rural community that wanted new people there to work effectively and constructively. The family was ripped away at dawn and separated. The children were aged three and, at that stage, anyway, less than one year. At this stage, now, that family is getting close to having been in detention for four months.

They don't apply for these reports because they only kick in when somebody has been in detention for two years. But that's the situation. You can see, report after report, shown in these documents—tabled with barely a blink anymore—of hundreds and hundreds of people in detention for years, while the minister's response is, 'Oh, the department's still considering it.'

In one case here, a person was found to be a refugee by the relevant offshore government and they've been in detention in Australia for 4½ years. It's case 1002294-02 in report 17, with a specific recommendation to get that person into community detention. They've been found to be a refugee by the totally inadequate rules the government's put in place. Yet even with a recommendation from the Ombudsman over six months ago saying, 'Get this person into community detention; they've been found to be a refugee,' the minister's saying, 'Yes, we're still thinking about it.'

That is absolutely typical of the attitude of this government compared to the previous Liberal government. When this change to the Migration Act was brought in, there was at least a recognition that people were being locked up and forgotten about. Well, they're not forgotten. The Greens and many others in the community want to make sure that all these families are not forgotten, including Priya and her three-year-old daughter. Thankfully, they had a victory today in court. There was an injunction against them being deported. That protection does not yet apply to her husband and their one-year-old daughter.

The community want them back. Why should all these people spend years locked up when they've been shown to be effectively, constructively, living and contributing to our community? Where is the logic in that? The only thing driving it is deliberate cruelty. Never has that been more starkly demonstrated than in a comment made by the immigration minister over the weekend that a single act of compassion could somehow or other cause all these boats of people seeking asylum to reappear. A government minister is actively arguing that compassion is harmful and dangerous. That is the stage our country has got to, and it is the complete perversion of any semblance of logic. Imagine how twisted your thinking would have to be to think that this, somehow, makes any sense in a decent society.

I repeat my call on behalf of the people of Biloela in Queensland to get this family and these two young children, three years old and one-year-old, out of detention and back into the community whilst the situation is being sorted out. Let them contribute in the way that we know so many of these people can and will and have.

Question agreed to.