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Excision of Melville Island should be opposed.



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Senator Andrew Bartlett Leader of the Australian Democrats Spokesperson for Immigration 4 November 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/796

EXCISION OF MELVILLE ISLAND SHOULD BE OPPOSED

The Australian Democrats have indicated they will seek to disallow the Government’s attempt to excise Melville Island from the Australian Migration Zone, following the arrival of a boat carrying potential asylum seekers.

Democrats’ Leader, Senator Andrew Bartlett, said he strongly opposed the idea that people’s legal rights should be conditional on which part of Australia they are in.

“The principle behind the Government’s desire to excise parts of Australia from the Migration Zone is the same as what the USA uses for Guantanamo Bay - trying to put people beyond the reach of the courts and the rule of the law,” said Senator Bartlett.

“The fact that the Government has rushed in a Regulation to remove Melville and Bathurst Islands from the Migration Zone just before this boat arrived shows that its arrival was not unexpected.

“This raises a number of questions, including whether there was any surveillance of the boat while it was at sea to check on the safety of those on board, and why the Government waited until the boat had landed to fly customs and other officials to the area.

“Another issue is whether the retrospective nature of the Regulation is consistent with the Acts Interpretation Act.”

It has been reported that the Immigration Minister signed off on the excision this afternoon, but that the Regulation took effect from midnight last night. Any Regulation which retrospectively reduces people’s rights is legally invalid.

“The reported decision to make Melville Island a flight exclusion zone to keep out media also demonstrates this Government’s obsession with controlling information and hiding from scrutiny,” said Senator Bartlett.

The ALP agreed to legislation in the lead up to the 2001 election which excised Christmas and Cocos Islands and Ashmore Reef. This legislation also empowered the Government to excise more islands in the future via Regulation, but this can be disallowed by the Senate. The Senate has also twice rejected further legislation aimed at massively increasing the number of islands excluded from the Migration Zone.

For media inquiries please contact Serena Rogers on 0419 833 571

http://www.democrats.org.au/