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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 8594


Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesAssistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (13:20): I will respond to both Senator Hanson-Young's amendment and to Senator Carr's amendment. I can make the general comment that the government opposes these amendments and that they go beyond the scope of the policy intention of this bill. This amendment includes reference to detention facilities in regional processing countries which cannot be supported under the Migration Act. The Australian government does not detain people offshore—this is a matter for overseas governments.

I will now go specifically to residence determination for minors. The minister already has a level of discretion available under section 197AB to make a residence determination, and will continue to use that discretion as appropriate and in the public interest for a person who is detained. Also, section 4AA already provides that the parliament affirms as a principle that a minor shall only be detained as a measure of last resort. In relation to mandatory reporting of assaults, reporting of incidents is already comprehensively provided for in the onshore immigration detention environment. Serco must inform the department of incidents in accordance with the incident management reporting requirements as set out in the contract. Reportable assaults include assault of a client under 18, minor assault, serious assault, sexual assault. Each of these is well defined and has a minimum time frame within the incident must reported by Serco to the department. Departmental officers must, under current operating arrangements, report alleged criminal activities, including assault, to the relevant law enforcement authorities.

In relation to disclosure of information related to detention facilities, this bill does not propose changes in relation to information related to immigration detention facilities or access to these facilities. It proposes amendments to ensure that confidential information that is relevant to the exercise of a section 501BA or 501CA power in the context of court proceedings receives the same level of protection from disclosure as confidential information relevant to the other character powers. This is a legitimate measure to protect the information in the context of court proceedings and it is a legitimate community protection measure.

Disclosure of information in the public interest is already separately provided for in the Public Service. The Public Interest Disclosure Act is the Commonwealth's statutory regime for disclosure of information in the public interest. Any disclosure under the Public Interest Disclosure Act would give immunity from criminal liability under section 42 of the Australian Border Force Act. There is nothing in the bills before the Senate preventing disclosure that is inconsistent with the Public Interest Disclosure Act.

I turn now to reasonable access for journalists. There are a number of oversight mechanisms for the monitoring of immigration detention facilities, including the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Australian Red Cross. Detainees have the right to provide feedback about their treatment in immigration detention without adverse consequences. Their feedback will be followed up quickly and fairly and can be submitted to the detention service provider or departmental staff at the facility, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the police, state and territory child welfare agencies and other agencies such as the Human Rights Commission.

The government opposes the amendments moved by Senator Carr. The government considers the amendment as unnecessary. As I have indicated, section 4AA of the Migration Act makes it clear that the government and the parliament affirms, as a principle, that a minor should only be detained as a last resort. There are already processes in place to ensure that detention of children is a last resort and decisions relating to children place importance on the best interests of the child.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN ( Senator Reynolds ): The question is that opposition amendments (1) and (2) on sheet 7808 be agreed to.