Government fails to rush extraordinary immigration powers through parliament

Government fails to rush extraordinary immigration powers through parliament
  • PublishedMarch 27, 2024

The Senate has rejected the federal government’s bid to rush extraordinary immigration powers through parliament.

The government introduced the legislation to parliament to make it easier to deport non-citizens. It passed the House of Representatives with the support of the Coalition on Tuesday, but has now stalled in the Senate, where it will stay for the imminent future.

The Greens and the crossbench voted with the Coalition in the Senate to block the bill, referring it to a Senate legal committee, which will hand down a report by May 7. 

The new legislation appeared to be motivated by a case currently before the High Court which could see a cohort of immigration detainees released into the community. The government has, in recent months, had to respond to the release of 150 people from immigration detention following a separate High Court ruling.

Senator Katy Gallagher said Wednesday ended the lectures from the opposition on “keeping Australians safe”.

“We see today the opposition who talks big on all these issues siding with the Greens political party to defer a matter that our advice and our advisors have told us is important to get done,” she said before the Senate voted for a committee. 

“No more lectures from those opposite, no more out trying to wind up the scare campaigns, no more accusations of us not working in the national interest because we see a clear example today of the opposition not acting in the national interest.” 

The High Court case, which has prompted the legislation and is set to be heard in mid-April, will rule on the case of an Iranian man, known as ASF17, who is refusing to cooperate with authorities wanting to deport him, arguing he’d be persecuted.

Home Affairs Minister, Clare O’Neil said it was “bleedingly obvious” why the laws needed to pass but provided little detail. 

“The ASF17 case does show it is important that we do have these powers, it’s not the only reason why we are doing this though,” Ms O’Neil. 

“It is very important that the Australian government move towards running a more orderly migration system… whatever your political views might be it is categorically a fact that we arrived in office with a migration system fundamentally broken.” 

Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi said both parties were “trading in human suffering to score cheap political points in a race to the bottom”. 

“It is such a pitiful race to the bottom, Labor is trying to out-Dutton Mr Dutton, the very man who has dog-whistled himself to the top of the Liberal Party.

“This bill is an extraordinary expansion of ministerial powers, to the point where the Human Rights Law Centre have called the powers ‘god-like’.” 

Dan Tehan and James Paterson
Shadow Minister for Immigration Dan Tehan and Shadow Minister for Home Affairs James Paterson said the Opposition would be pushing for the senate committee. (AAP: Mick Tsikas)

Coalition accuse government of ‘extraordinary’ behaviour regarding bill 

On Wednesday morning, the shadow immigration minister and shadow foreign affairs minister said they needed more time to consider the legislation. 

Dan Tehan described the way Immigration Minister Andrew Giles had introduced the legislation and his subsequent refusal to front questioning from the press gallery over it as extraordinary. 

“He is trying to rush this legislation through the parliament without proper process, and he will not front up and explain whether they’re might be unintended consequences or any other thing which might happen as a result of his complete incompetence,” Mr Tehan said. 

James Paterson said a Senate hearing of the bill on Tuesday night frustrated all senators.

“Coalition senators basically begged the government to demonstrate why it was so urgent, why it had to be rushed to the parliament in 36 hours and they failed to do so.

“They couldn’t explain how many people this would affect. They couldn’t explain what the consequences of this would be for any upcoming High Court cases. 

Mr Paterson said the opposition also had concerns over third-country resettlement options and that the legislation could “encourage people to get back on boats again”. 

Human Rights law experts have also voiced their concerns about the legislation, its substance and how the government has dealt with the process.


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