National Security

Deportation law hits road block

March 28, 2024

Thursday 28 March 2024
Rosie Lewis
The Australian

 Anthony Albanese has suffered a major political setback after his embattled  ministers Clare O'Neil and Andrew Giles failed to rush emergency removal  powers for non-citizens through the parliament, leaving the government  without a plan B if it loses a looming High Court case that could see more  detainees released.
 The Prime Minister was being urged to consider recalling parliament - which  is not due to sit again until the May 14 budget - if the government could  convince the Coalition of the immediate need to pass the legislation, as a  new political row erupted and Ms O'Neil was accused by the opposition of  "verbally abusing" her departmental secretary and leaving her in  tears.
 Ms O'Neil, the Home Affairs Minister, repeatedly refused to deny the claims  during a chaotic last sitting day before the six week break and was unable to  explain why the migration powers had to pass parliament this week.
 She twice chose to walk away from journalists asking questions.
 It came as immigration officials on Wednesday night said that of 152  detainees released as a result of a High Court decision last year only 59  were subject to electronic monitoring.
 Ms O'Neil earlier that the emergency legislation - which would hand  Immigration Minister Mr Giles the power to force unco-operative non-citizens  who have exhausted all their legal options to remain in Australia home, or  face a mandatory one year in jail - was linked to a case being brought by an  Iranian man before the High Court next month.
 The man, known as ASF17, is challenging his detention and pushing to be  released into the community, claiming he will be persecuted over his  sexuality if he is sent home to Iran.
 According to documents filed in court, ASF17 has said he is stateless,  undocumented, converted to Christianity and Kurdish, a minority persecuted in  Iran.
 But he had previously told authorities that he was an Iranian citizen and  left the country for economic reasons, and government officials found an  Iranian driver's licence among his possessions. Government officials said in  court documents that his family own property in Iran - only citizens can  legally do that - and they do not believe his conversion to Christianity is  legitimate.
 More than 100 detainees who are refusing to co-operate with deportation could  also be released if ASF17 wins the case, but the government says the changes  Continued on Page 5
 Continued from Page 1 unveiled on Tuesday would be directed primarily at the  152 former detainees who were released after last year's NZYQ High Court  ruling, which overturned indefinite detention.
 "The ASF17 case does show that it is important that we have these  powers," Ms O'Neil said.
 "It's not the only reason why we're doing this though. It is very  important that the Australian government move towards running a more orderly  migration system.
 "The power to remove people from our country is important to running a  functional migration system. We had a good law before the parliament today,  and the Liberals have chosen to play politics." A day after first being  briefed on the deportation powers, which the government had wanted passed on  Wednesday, the Coalition announced it would not support the bill and instead  referred it to a parliamentary inquiry to be scrutinised and reported on by  May 7.
 The Greens and majority of the Senate crossbench sided with the Coalition,  with just Labor voting against the referral.
 "Today the Minister for Home Affairs is running away from scrutiny of  her apparently urgent legislation to deal with the ongoing immigration  detention crisis. The Minister for Home Affairs is running away from  transparency about the . apparent urgent need for this legislation,"  opposition home affairs spokesman James Paterson said.
 "Last night in a specially convened senate hearing, the government was  completely unable to answer basic questions about this legislation and the  need for it. In fact, Coalition senators basically begged the government to  demonstrate why it was so urgent, why it had to be rushed through the  parliament in 36 hours, and they failed to do so." Senator Paterson said  it remained unclear how many people the emergency powers would affect, how or  when the government planned to use the laws, or if there were unintended  consequences.
 "We are very concerned about the failure to do work on third country  resettlement options. We are very concerned that this might inadvertently  encourage people to get back on boats again," he said.
 Coalition senators on Tuesday night attempted to establish if there was any  urgency in driving the bill through parliament but Department of Home Affairs  secretary Stephanie Foster and her colleagues would not answer.
 Ms Foster acknowledged if the emergency powers passed, the government would  be able to apply the provisions to any noncitizen who had no legal right to  stay in Australia and who were frustrating their removal.
 Asked if ASF17 made the amendments to the Migration Act urgent, Ms Foster  said: "If the bill were passed and the case were unsuccessful, it would  give us an additional tool to deal with people affected by that." Ms  O'Neil was hounded by deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley in question time over  her alleged treatment of Ms Foster, being accused of abusing the secretary  and leaving her in tears after a February meeting over Ms Foster's written  confirmation of the crimes including murder, child sex offences and domestic  violence - committed by the NZYQ cohort.
 The Minister did not deny the allegations, but did "say to the deputy  leader of the opposition, I enjoy a close and warm relationship with the  secretary of my department." Ms O'Neil earlier rejected the assertion  she had directed Ms Foster to delay releasing the breakdown of crimes.
 With the government failing to get on the front foot after months of chaos on  detainees, opposition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan said the Coalition was  willing to return to parliament in the next six weeks to push through  emergency deportation powers, if the government could convince them there was  an urgency.
 "Absolutely. You've seen that we've done that before. We did that before  Christmas, we came back and helped the government keep the Australian people  safe, and we will do it again. This is something that the Coalition takes  incredibly seriously," Mr Tehan told Sky News.
 Mr Giles lambasted Mr Tehan for his suggestion, saying the Senate could have  voted on the laws on Wednesday night.

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