Australian government planning retrograde laws on asylum


Asylum seeker advocates say the Australian government's latest bills that include the restoration of Temporary Protection Visas have laws hidden in them that would limit legal scrutiny of the government, remove the umpire and allow the Government to decide what UN obligations it would abide by.The 7:30 Report



Australian Broadcasting Corporation


Asylum seeker advocates claim Government has hidden 'retrograde' laws


Broadcast: 16/10/2014


Reporter: Sabra Lane



LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: If the Government has its way, it will soon reintroduce the

controversial temporary protection visas for asylum seekers.


It has just three weeks left to do it, with the Senate finishing for the year after that.


Asylum seeker advocates claim that buried within the Government's legislation are laws that

would limit scrutiny of the Government's actions, as political correspondent Sabra Lane reports.


SABRA LANE, REPORTER: They're arguably the most controversial of the Federal

Government's policies: to stop the boats and bring back temporary protection visas.


SCOTT MORRISON, IMMIGRATION MINISTER (Sept. 25th): These measures affirm and

strengthen the Government's ability to continue the success of our maritime operations. This will

help ensure that the tap stays off.


SABRA LANE: The Immigration Minister Scott Morrison recently introduced a bill to revive TPVs,

which provide refugees with temporary rather than permanent protection, after clinching the

support of Clive Palmer's three senators.


SCOTT MORRISON (Sept. 25th): It reinforces the Government's powers to undertake maritime

turnbacks and introduces rapid processing and streamlined review arrangements.


SABRA LANE: The Government needs three more votes for the bill to pass the Senate and it's

lobbying now to win that support. Yet the bill does more than restore temporary protection visas.



bill reintroducing temporary protection visas. Aside from that, there's a range of really retrograde

reforms lying underneath that branding.



Government a blank cheque on this. There are reservations in the legislation.


SABRA LANE: Notes released with the bill explain what the new laws will do: that a boat or

person, "... may be taken to a place outside Australia whether or not Australia has an agreement

with any country," effectively enshrining in law boat turnarounds, tow-backs and returns to waters

beyond Australia's territories. It would mean these, "... powers cannot be invalidated because a

court considers there has been a failure to consider, properly consider, or comply with Australia's

international obligations," for example, to the UN Convention on Refugees. And of particular

concern to refugee advocates, it will ensure the rules, "... of natural justice do not apply to a range

of powers in the Maritime Act."


HUGH DE KRETSER: I'd characterise it as a government that is seeking to do everything in its

power to limit transparency and accountability, limit legal scrutiny around its actions in relation to

asylum seekers.


SABRA LANE: Hugh de Krester is the executive director of the Human Rights Law Centre. He led

this week's High Court challenge against the Government's decision to detain a group of 157

Tamils at sea for a month. It tried and failed to send them back to India in July. The group's now

detained on Nauru.


HUGH DE KRETSER: We're sacrificing our international reputation, we're sacrificing our foreign

policy capital, all in this one-eyed obsession with saying that we've stopped the boats.


DAVID LEYONHJELM: Do we want Australian law that allows our Navy to intrude into somebody

else's - another country's sovereignty? It's not a very friendly thing to do.


SABRA LANE: The Government acknowledges the new laws are, "capable of authorising actions

which may not be consistent," with Australia's commitments not to return asylum seekers back to

persecution, yet it says it's the Government's intention to comply with its international obligations,

to the UN Convention for Refugees, for example. But - and it's a big but - the notes explaining the

bill say, "It's the Government's position that the interpretation and application of such obligations

is a matter for the executive government". In short, the Government will decide what UN

obligations Australia will abide by.


HUGH DE KRETSER: It's like promising to play by the rules while you're effectively abolishing the



SABRA LANE: The minister's declined 7.30's interview request today. A parliamentary committee

will examine the bill before a final Senate vote. The Greens are opposed. Labor's undecided; it's

against TPVs, but won't give blanket rejection to the entire bill.


If both parties reject measures, the Government will need six extra votes in the Senate. It has a

commitment from the Palmer three and Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm is undecided.


DAVID LEYONHJELM: The idea of coming here in an unsafe fashion has to be stopped, so I'm

very sympathetic to his broad objective. Whether he's got everything right in the legislation aimed

at that objective, that's another matter.


SABRA LANE: Independent John Madigan rejects it outright.




SABRA LANE: For the senator, it's personal. His great, great-grandfather was a Portuguese

merchant seaman.


JOHN MADIGAN: He jumped off the boat, late 1800s, around time - the Gold Rush. And I sort of

think to myself, "If he was to do that today and he was fleeing persecution, they'd lock him up."

And I'm sure that he never would have thought that 109 years after his death, that one of his

great-great-grandsons would become a senator.


SABRA LANE: He's visited detention centres to assess how people are coping. He's also taken

his son to visit a family whose patriarch's in detention.


JOHN MADIGAN: My son was 10 at the time and he said to me, "Dad, why do we do this to

people?" Ah, well I couldn't answer that. I couldn't answer that. It's pretty poor when a 10-year-old

can say there's something wrong and yet grown adults can't.


SABRA LANE: It's something the senator might raise personally with the Prime Minister.


Tony Abbott's dining with at least four crossbenchers next week. None of them knows specifically

why. They hope it's a sign the Prime Minister wants to be more collaborative.


JOHN MADIGAN: But after three and a bit years in this place, you know, I have to apologise if my

cynicism levels for this place are pretty finely-tuned.


DAVID LEYONHJELM: I'm quite looking forward to meeting him again, but I don't know what the

meeting is about, and even if I did, I wouldn't tell you.


LEIGH SALES: Sabra Lane reporting.

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There are concerns asylum seekers on Manus Island aren't receiving timely treatment as new pictures reveal the unhygienic conditions in the detention centre.

The Canberra Times Offshore detention centres: annual costs hit $1 billion

Date: October 20, 2014 - 6:28PM

Sarah Whyte Immigration correspondent

$632 million a year: The detention centre on Manus Island. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The federal government has spent more than $1 billion this financial year to house about 2200 asylum seekers in offshore detention centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

Running the detention centre on Manus Island has cost taxpayers $632.3 million, and the operational cost of Nauru was $582.4 million, a Senate estimates hearing was told on Monday.

Deputy secretary of immigration Mark Cormack said the costs - for 1167 asylum seekers on Nauru and 1060 on Manus Island - included health expenses, escorting asylum seekers to and from the centres, staff costs and payments made to both countries to support the detention facilities.

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison defended the costs, saying the running of the two centres underpinned the government's border protection regime and the costs had declined by "almost $100 million" compared with the previous financial year.

"It not only stops the people-smuggling trade but it does so without drawing on Australia the significant costs associated with our other measures, especially offshore processing," she said. "Stopping boats is saving lives and saving billions of dollars."

Despite the huge price tag, asylum seekers on Manus Island have suffered another setback as PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill confirmed there had been further delays in resettling asylum seekers who were found to be refugees.

Mr O'Neill, who met Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Sunday en route to Jakarta for the inauguration of Joko Widodo as new Indonesian President, said his government needed more time.

In a statement, Mr O'Neill said that "due to lack of understanding and support for refugee settlement in PNG communities", a new policy would be prepared with an increased focus on consultations and building public awareness and support.

"The new policy will be considered by cabinet after these comprehensive public awareness and consultations are completed," he said.

Reports said Mr Abbott and Mr Morrison met Mr O'Neill to discuss the delays in the resettlement of refugees.

Labor immigration spokesman Richard Marles said the federal government had serious questions to answer over its failure to effectively manage the relationship with PNG and its capability to resettle asylum seekers, particularly after two deaths in the compound since February this year.

"In March, Tony Abbott said people would be resettled in PNG within three months," he said.

"Scott Morrison needs to start taking responsibility for his disastrous handling of this key agreement, including his failure to actively engage with the Papua New Guinea government until after the riot at the Manus Island facility in February of this year," Mr Marles said.

The estimates committee also heard that 164 asylum seekers arrived in Australia during this calendar year, compared with 20,711 arrivals in the previous year. The big drop had saved the government $2.5 billion, the estimates hearing was told.

Scott Morrison personally intervenes to block claims for permanent asylum

Immigration minister has issued a ‘conclusive certificate’ which removes right of appeal on grounds of national interest

            , Tuesday 21 October 2014 21.02 BST        

The immigration minister, Scott Morrison, has intervened to refuse refugee protection claims and has stripped refugees of any right to appeal against his decisions in an unprecedented new push to block permanent settlement.

Refugees found by the government to require protection by Australia have been told they will receive only temporary (humanitarian concern) visas, and have been banned from appealing against the decision by signed ministerial decree.

This is despite the high court striking down the government’s use of temporary visas last month.

Morrison has employed a rarely used clause in the Migration Act that allows the minister to issue a “conclusive certificate” blocking permanent protection without explanation, and forbidding any review of the decision on grounds of national interest.

Morrison’s office has confirmed the minister has intervened in one case, but Guardian Australia understands at least three conclusive certificates have been issued.

The certificate, of which Guardian Australia has obtained a copy (pdf), reads: “I, Scott Morrison, minister for immigration and border protection, acting under section 411(3)b of the Migration Act 1958, believing that it would be contrary to the national interest for my decision to refuse to grant a protection visa to be changed or reviewed, hereby issue a conclusive certificate”.

The minister is not obliged to reveal the reasons of national interest for the decision. His decision cannot be appealed at the Refugee Review Tribunal.

In September, the high court disallowed the government’s attempt to force all asylum seekers on to temporary protection. In a subsequent case, which will come before the full bench in December, the court will decide whether the minister’s use of national interest is lawful in rejecting refugee protection claims.

Refugees issued with conclusive certificates refusing them permanent protection and forbidding them to appeal have passed all security and character checks. There are no national security concerns about their claims.

Serina McDuff from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said refugees were being denied natural justice, and that there was no clear definition of what was meant by national interest.

“To exercise such a power where people are owed protection and particularly where they have passed security and character checks may be a contravention of their right to a permanent protection visa under the law.”

McDuff said the government was using national interest to pursue a political aim of providing only temporary protection to refugees.

“Permanent protection for refugees is currently the law, regardless of the desire of the government to only provide temporary protection. Temporary protection has been twice rejected by the Senate, people found to be refugees are right now owed permanent protection.”

Joyce Chia from the Kaldor centre for international refugee law at the University of NSW said the minister’s use of the national interest criterion to refuse visa applications was an attempt to circumvent the decision of the high court.

“It seems unlikely that this interpretation would be upheld if challenged, because it would effectively subvert the scheme of the Migration Act by giving the minister almost unfettered power to deny people protection visas.”

A spokeswoman for Morrison said the minister alone held the power to decide whether it was “in the national interest” to grant a permanent protection visa to a refugee found to require Australia’s protection.

“The minister will also decide if it is in the national interest for a conclusive certificate to be issued, thereby preventing merits review of his decision. Applicants will still be able to apply for judicial review,” the spokeswoman said.

Judicial review can consider only errors of law. The merits of the minister’s national interest decision cannot be considered by any court or tribunal.

The Guardian

Asylum seekers: Andrew Wilkie takes Australia to international criminal court


MP names Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison and the rest of cabinet in letter to ICC alleging crimes against humanity


    Shalailah Medhora, Wednesday 22 October 2014 12.32 AEST         


Independent Member for Denison Andrew Wilkie Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has asked the international criminal court to investigate the Abbott government’s treatment of asylum seekers. Photograph: Stefan Postles/AAP


Andrew Wilkie has written to the international criminal court (ICC) asking it to investigate the Abbott government for crimes against asylum seekers.


The independent Tasmanian MP has sent the application, naming the prime minister, Tony Abbott, and his 19-member cabinet, including the immigration minister, Scott Morrison.


“In my application I have particularly named crimes against humanity, such as the forced relocation of people, obviously to the Republic of Nauru or Papua New Guinea,” Wilkie said.


He also claims that the government’s hardline immigration policies contravene the Refugee Convention, Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


It is unclear whether the ICC prosecutor will take up the case but if it proceeds Abbott and Morrison could be called to testify.


Wilkie said he had hoped not to take such drastic action against the government, but said he was forced to because of an “absence of movement” on the issue.


“I’ve tried repeatedly in the House of Representatives, refugee advocates have tried and tried and tried,” Wilkie said. “Things have deteriorated, really, as far as the government’s asylum seeker policy goes. This is the next step to take.”


The Coalition has consistently argued that its offshore processing and resettlement policies have stopped people attempting to arrive in Australia by boat.


“There have been no deaths at sea since last year compared with over 300 missing, confirmed or presumed deaths at sea in the year prior to Operation Sovereign Borders under the Labor government,” Morrison wrote in a press release issued to mark the first anniversary of the controversial policy.


Wilkie acknowledged that the policy has “saved a few lives at our border”, but said that came “at the expense of a lot of lives elsewhere”.


Labor introduced the PNG offshore settlement policy before last year’s federal election.


Guardian Australia has sought a response from the offices of the prime minister, immigration minister and opposition spokesman for immigration.