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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 8583


Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (12:55): I would like to start with my amendments in relation to releasing children from detention. My understanding from sheet 7791 is that the first two amendments deal with 3A section 4AA and 3B subsection 5(1). Can I get clarification that we are all on the same page?

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN ( Senator Reynolds ): Senator Hanson-Young, are you seeking leave?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am seeking leave to speak to the amendments as circulated.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Senator Hanson-Young, are you seeking leave to move amendments (1), (2) and (5) together?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes, please.

Leave granted.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I move Greens' amendments (1), (2) and (5) on sheet 7791:

(1) Schedule 3, page 11 (before line 4), before item 3, insert:

3A Section 4AA

   Repeal the section, substitute:

   The Parliament affirms as a principle that no minor is to be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a minor must be in conformity with the law and must only be used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.

(2) Schedule 3, page 11 (after line 11), after item 3, insert:

3B Subsection 5(1) (definition of residence determination )

Omit "subsection 197AB(1)", substitute "subsections 197AAA(1), (2), (3) and 197AB(1)".

(5) Schedule 3, page 12 (after line 22), after item 10, insert:

10A Application—subsection 197AAA(1) of the Migration Act 1958

(1) This item applies if:

   (a) a person is in detention under section 189 of the Migration Act on or after the commencement of this item; and

   (b) the person is a person to whom Subdivision B of Division 7 of Part 2 of that Act applies; and

   (c) before the commencement of this item the person was identified as a minor.

Residence determination for minor

(2) The Minister must, as soon as practicable, but in any case within 14 days of commencement make a determination under subsection 197AAA(1) of the Migration Act, as inserted by this Part, in relation to the minor.

Residence determination for member of minor ' s family unit

(3) If:

   (a) the Minister makes a determination in accordance with subitem (2) in relation to the minor; and

   (b) another person to whom Subdivision B of Division 7 of Part 2 of the Migration Act 1958 applies is a member of the family unit of the minor;

   the Minister must make a determination under subsection 197AAA(2) of that Act in relation to the other person as soon as practicable, but in any case within 14 days of making the determination in accordance with subitem (2).

Residence determination for minor ' s carer or guardian

(4) If:

   (a) the Minister makes a determination in accordance with subitem (2) in relation to the minor; and

   (b) another person to whom Subdivision B of Division 7 of Part 2 of the Migration Act 1958 applies has not been identified as a member of the family unit of the minor; and

   (c) the minor, at commencement, is, or has been, in the care of another person (a guardian) to whom that Subdivision applies;

the Minister must make a determination under subsection 197AAA(3) in relation to the guardian as soon as practicable, but in any case within 14 days of making the determination in accordance with subitem (2).

As I outlined in my speech in the second reading debate, these amendments go to releasing children from detention. We know from the statistics released by the department on 30 October that there are 112 children held in immigration detention here in Australia. We have heard over and over again from the experts, medical professionals and practitioners, that the detention of children is extremely harmful. Only last month the medical community, including doctors, nurses and the Australian Medical Association, called on our parliament to act swiftly to remove children from indefinite detention.

Some would be watching this debate this morning and wondering why on earth we are still debating this issue, when 12 months ago there was a very similar discussion about releasing children from Australian facilities. Sadly, there are still over 100—the latest statistics showing 112—children detained in Australian facilities. These amendments would release these children by Christmas and they would ensure that families are kept together. I understand that there are a number of amendments to the Greens' amendments that the Labor Party wish to move to ensure security and safety of the community as well as the families involved, and I welcome those amendments as put forwarded by Labor's spokesperson, Senator Carr, in this place.

It is time. Some of these children have been in detention for years and years. They are incredibly damaged as a result. Children are not developing as they should and young babies have not been able to grow at the normal rate because of the negative physiological, emotional and social impact of their detention. One of the doctors at the Melbourne Children's Hospital described one of these children as 'the youngest depressed person' the doctor had ever seen—and it was a six-month-old baby. No-one in this place should be advocating—and I do not believe does advocate—directly for the detention of children. These children currently held have been there for way too long. It is a national shame that we have kept them locked up; that we have effectively stolen this amount of time from their childhoods. It is time that we right this wrong and release this children once and for all.

There is one little girl in detention who is now seven years old. She has been in detention for 2½ years. She suffers significant post-traumatic stress disorder. At the age of five or six, she attempted to swallow razor blades. She cannot sleep. She has nightmares. Her parents complain of her wetting the bed. The trauma that she has endured from being locked in these facilities is not something that we can pretend we do not know about. We know that the damage to children from detention is significant. We knew it last time children were detained, under the Howard government. We have seen it over and over again in independent reports and inquiries, but most importantly in the medical reports that are written about these children by their doctors, their paediatricians and their expert psychiatrists and clinical teams.

In years to come we will be asked what we in this place did to ensure the protection of these children—when we knew that the detention of them was harmful. I urge all members in this place to act today to support an amendment which requests the minister to remove these children from detention and to house them securely and safely in the Australian community, where they can start to get better, where they can integrate into their communities and where their parents can start being mums and dads properly again. These children deserve us as a parliament today to stand for them and to act for them. We are only speaking about 112 children—and some would say, '112 children out of how many others?' We have the power today to remove those children from detention, to stop any further suffering and to ensure that they are no longer put in harm's way.

If indeed there is a reason that they must remain in detention, we should have that argument put before a court and ensure that the minister has to justify their continued detention. I find it hard to see how anyone can justify the detention of a six-year-old, or a six-month-old, or a 16-year-old—a little boy or a little girl who has done nothing wrong apart from being a victim of the world they have been born into and the circumstances they have endured. These children deserve a voice in this place, and we today can give them a voice and give them the protection that so far has been denied to them. I urge all of my colleagues in this place to move to release the children currently in detention here in Australia immediately and to ensure that they can be living in the community free from harm by Christmas.