The committee's inquiry into the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2019 (the bill) received 30 submissions from legal and immigration experts, with the 2016 version of this bill having received 84 submissions. Many of these submissions raised serious concerns regarding this bill.
Despite the evidence provided and concerns raised by submissions and witnesses, the report recommends that this bill be passed. The Australian Greens agree with the submission of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre who strongly oppose the passage of this legislation and that the Government's priority should be 'finding a durable solution'.
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.
The Kaldor Centre has correctly submitted that:
The Bill would punish refugees and asylum seekers for entering or seeking to enter Australia by boat in violation of Article 31(1) of the Refugee Convention, which requires Australia not to 'impose penalties, on account of… illegal entry' to Australia on refugees who have come 'directly' from a place of persecution, as long as they 'present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry'.
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 Refugee Council of Australia in their submission stated the greatest impact of this Bill will be on the separation of families. Family members in In Narau or Papua New Guinea will not be able to visit their families in Australia.
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 30 submissions received on this bill.
The Australian Greens find that the bill contravenes international obligations to which Australia has committed, including the rights to non-discrimination and equality, and the rights of the child and protection of the family.
The Australian Greens recommend that the bill be rejected by the Senate.
Senator Nick McKim
Greens Senator for Tasmania