Liberty Victoria Statement following the passing of the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014

Last week, Australia’s Parliament passed legislation intended to sideline international law, natural justice and judicial oversight from the determination of asylum claims. 

Liberty Victoria condemns that legislation, and the appalling tactics used to secure its passage through the Senate. 

Over 100 children will be released from immigration detention following the passing of the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014. Their release is welcomed. Yet as Daniel Webb of the Human Rights Law Centre (and a member of Liberty Victoria’s Policy Committee) has noted, the Immigration Minister:  

… quite literally made these children the hostages of his political agenda. Their rights and liberty in no way hinged on a principled assessment of the necessity for their detention. Their freedom didn’t depend on any assessment of their wellbeing or of the harm being caused by their incarceration. Their futures had absolutely nothing to do with any consideration of their human rights.

Their fate hinged entirely on the Senate paying [the Minister’s] asking price – the passage of his Migration Bill.

The scope and content of that Bill, now law, is frightening. Julian Burnside AO QC (also a member of Liberty Victoria’s Policy Committee) has observed: 

Under Morrison’s amendments, the principle of natural justice is removed, the supervisory role of the courts is removed, references to the convention in the migration act are removed. The minister now has the power to send a person to any country he chooses, even if that may involve a breach of our international obligations.

The Government wanted the power to return asylum seekers to a country where their life or freedom would be at risk.  Parliament has given it to them.  It did so despite warnings from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights  and the United Nations Committee against Torture  that such power breaches Australia’s human rights obligations.

Rights designed to protect asylum seekers – mostly refugees who have fled from unutterable circumstances – continue to be stripped away as Australia abandons its international obligations. 

Liberty Victoria condemns that abandonment. 

There are many other troubling aspects about the Bill. 

As 2014 draws to a close, legislation such as this reminds us why it is as important as ever to stand up for equality, to stand up for fairness and to stand up for liberty.  

The Refugee Action Collective (Vic) has organised the following event:

    Human Rights Vigil to protest Morrison’s Bill
    Friday 12 December 2014
    7pm to 9.30pm 
    City Square (cnr Collins & Swanston Streets). 

Details of the rally are available online.

I hope that all who can attend do so. 

George Georgiou SC
Liberty Victoria