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Acting Prime Minister should get some advice.

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Robert McClelland - Acting Prime Minister Should Get Some Advice //media/0901/rmmsbpb110901.html Thursday, 13 September 2001

Acting Prime Minister Should Get Some Advice Robert McClelland - Shadow Attorney-General

Media Statement - 11 September 2001

An assertion by the Acting Prime Minister that the Border Protection Bill, which the Howard Government introduced in haste to the Federal Parliament two weeks ago, would have avoided a court challenge with respect to the people on board the Tampa is completely wrong.

In an embarrassing performance on the 7.30 Report, Mr Anderson was unable to point to anything in the Border Protection Bill that would have made the actions of the Australian government lawful.

The Bill does not provide a clear and specific legal basis for the detention of people on board the Tampa by SAS officers, nor would it have authorised their ongoing detention on board the troop carrier Manoora.

It is a fundamental principle of legal interpretation that any law which seeks to take away personal liberties must do so in an explicit fashion.

And as any competent legal adviser would point out to the Acting Prime Minister, all legislation must be read as subject to the Constitution. This point was, in fact, later conceded by the Attorney-General's office.

As Labor has pointed out over the past 10 days without challenge, the Border Protection Bill simply did not address the course of action followed by the government - to take passengers off the Tampa to be placed on an Australian naval ship for transport to another country.

The government is paying the price of acting in haste without formulating a long-term strategy or thinking through the legal consequences of that strategy.

Labor has consistently offered to support a Tampa-specific Bill to address the issue, but clearly the Border Protection Bill is irrelevant to the specific circumstances which were considered by the Federal Court. Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.