Pressure still on Giles over deportations

June 22, 2024

Saturday 22 June 2024
Angus Thompson
Sydney Morning Herald

 The Albanese government is backing away from a once-urgent bill to jail  foreigners who resist deportation when parliament resumes next week, as the  Coalition challenges Labor to front up over the future of the controversial  legislation.
 Immigration Minister Andrew Giles' deportation bill has been left off the  draft schedule for the Senate next week after it was removed from the  parliamentary program more than a month ago, days after the government fended  off a High Court challenge over the release of detainees.
 Coalition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan described the absence of the  legislation from next week's slate as "more gross incompetence"  from Giles, whose performance has been criticised after being mired in  controversies over the deportation of foreign criminals and the fallout from  a legal ruling triggering the release of 160 immigration detainees.
 The bill threatens up to five years' jail for non-citizens who refuse to go  back to their countries and bans entire nationalities from visiting Australia  if their governments won't accept citizens being returned against their will.
 It was introduced before a High Court freedom bid by an Iranian detainee who  the government said was being lawfully held and could be deported if he  co-operated with efforts to remove him.
 The government denied the two were directly linked, although it conceded the  measures would be helpful should the government lose the case.
 Giles tried to ram it through both houses of parliament within two days in  March. It was blocked by the Senate and referred to a parliamentary inquiry,  where it was criticised by multicultural communities, the human rights  watchdog, the ombudsman and former immigration officials.
 Despite this, Labor senators proposed no changes to the bill. The Coalition  demanded a raft of changes to soften the toughest conditions of the bill.
 The Coalition wants the minister to consider the best interests of children  when forcing anyone to co-operate with moves to deport them; give those  affected time to seek legal advice; consider the impact on multicultural  communities when banning nationalities from Australia; and broaden exemptions  to allow extended family members of dual nationals to visit Australia.
 On May 10, Albanese urged the Senate to "get on with it" and pass  the bill.
 Hours later, the government won the High Court case, allowing it to continue  to detain the Iranian man and 199 others in similar circumstances.
 A spokesperson for Giles said the Senate committee recommended parliament  pass the bill, making no reference to the dissenting reports. "The  government calls on the Coalition to commit to supporting the  legislation," the spokesperson said.
 Opposition home affairs spokesman James Paterson said the Coalition had made  suggestions to improve the bill "and stands ready to work with the  government to pass it, but there's been nothing but radio silence for  months".
 Greens immigration spokesman David Shoebridge said the bill had "no  friends outside the Labor Party, and no merit wherever you look."
 "Labor has spent the last year burning every bridge it can with diaspora  communities. Pulling this bill might be an indication that they are trying to  limit the damage," he said.
 Last month it was revealed that a tribunal gave serious foreign criminals  with ties to Australia a second chance to stay in the country due to a  directive issued by Giles last year.
 Soon after, he made the claim drones were being used to monitor former  detainees in the community, which he walked back, after it was revealed to be  false.

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