The committee's inquiry into the Migration Legislation Amendment
(Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016 (the bill) received 84 submissions from legal
and immigration experts. All of these submissions raised serious concerns
regarding this bill. All witnesses at the public hearing also criticised the
bill, with the exception of those representing the Department of Immigration
and Border Protection.
Despite the evidence provided and concerns raised by submissions and
witnesses, the report recommends that this bill be passed. However, the Australian
Greens believe that the recommendation does not sufficiently address the
serious problems identified with this bill.
The Australian Greens are concerned that the bill is punitive, will
impact negatively on families, and that the Government has not demonstrated the
bill is necessary to deter asylum seekers. There is no evidence that this bill
will actually achieve its stated objective.
The bill arbitrarily discriminates against the cohort on the basis of
their mode of arrival, which they may have had little choice over. The bill
contravenes numerous human rights and international obligations to which
Australia is a signatory.
The Australian Greens note the issues raised by witnesses about the
public interest test and capacity of the Minister to 'lift the bar' in
individual cases. We do not believe that this is sufficient to satisfy
Australia's international human rights obligations. The public interest is not
defined in the bill, and there is no duty on the minister to exercise this power.
The bill provides yet another non-compellable and therefore non-reviewable
discretionary power to the Minister.
The Australian Greens reject the view of the Government that a statement
by the then Prime Minister on 19 July 2013 can be used as a basis for claiming
that the bill is not retrospective. This is an arrogant and disrespectful claim
to make in proposing a bill that will have significant repercussions for this
cohort of individuals.
The bill has the potential to further separate families and sever
support networks of people who have already been significantly damaged, both
mentally and physically, by Australia’s policy of indefinite offshore detention.
The Australian Greens find that the report has not adequately responded
to or addressed the concerns raised in all 84 submissions received on this
The Australian Greens find that the bill contravenes numerous
international rights including the rights to non-discrimination and equality,
and the rights of the child and protection of the family.
1.10 The Australian Greens recommend that the bill be
rejected by the Senate.
Senator Nick McKim
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