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senate vote 2013-02-06#7

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on 2017-10-14 11:33:35


  • Regulations and Determinations Migration Amendment Regulation 2012 (No. 5); Disallowance
  • Regulations and Determinations - Migration Amendment Regulation 2012 (No. 5) - Disallow


  • <p class="speaker">Sarah Hanson-Young</p>
  • <p>I move:</p>
  • <p class="italic">That the Migration Amendment Regulation 2012 (No. 5), as contained in Select Legislative Instrument 2012 No. 230 and made under the Migration Act 1958, be disallowed.</p>
  • The majority voted against Greens Senator [Sarah Hanson-Young]('s [motion]( to disallow the Migration Amendment Regulation 2012 (No. 5). In other words, they voted against getting rid of that Regulation so that it was no longer law.
  • Senator Hanson-Young [explains]( that this Regulation:
  • > *amends the migration regulation so that any person who arrives by boat cannot seek family reunion under the Special Humanitarian Program.*
  • She gives [several reasons]( for why she wanted this Regulation disallowed.
  • ### Motion text
  • > *That the Migration Amendment Regulation 2012 (No. 5), as contained in Select Legislative Instrument 2012 No. 230 and made under the Migration Act 1958, be disallowed.*
  • <p>I am seeking to disallow Migration Amendment Regulation 2012 (No. 5) for a number of reasons. This regulation amends the migration regulation so that any person who arrives by boat cannot seek family reunion under the Special Humanitarian Program.</p>
  • <p>This was a policy that was used by John Howard and his government as part of his own deterrent policies, and it has now of course been adopted by the Gillard government as part of Labor's very own Pacific solution mark II. It did not work under John Howard; in fact, it forced more mothers and children onto dangerous boats. And we know that during the SIEV X tragedy it was mostly women and children who died when that boat sunk. It was very much a direct correlation to the lack of family reunion provisions as introduced by John Howard. I am extremely concerned that we are about to see&#8212;in fact, we already are seeing&#8212;the exact same trend happening again under Labor's own policy to push away family reunion for those very desperate people who happen to arrive here on our shores. The regulation change is punitive and discriminatory. As refugees are unable to return to their country of origin, if family reunion is not available for those who return by boat as a blanket rule, then there is the potential that some refugees may permanently be separated from their families. This of course for those who are left in very dangerous circumstances forces them to take the only option they have and that is to board a boat.</p>
  • <p>It is discriminatory because it treats people differently based on their mode of arrival. This is a direct breach of Australia's obligations under the refugee convention. We are meant to treat people on their need for protection not on how they arrive, and yet the cruellest and nastiest part of this type of policy, Julia Gillard and John Howard's policy, is that many of the people&#8212;in fact most&#8212;who come to Australia by boat as their only option are found overwhelmingly to be in genuine need of protection and to be refugees. They take that journey because it is the only option they have available to them.</p>
  • <p>If the Australian government does not settle enough people directly from camps around the world from places in our region such as Indonesia and Malaysia, people have no other option but to take that dangerous boat journey. The government has not given them a safer option and now they are about to force their family members to come by boat as well, just like under John Howard.</p>
  • <p>The regulations have a very detrimental effect on the welfare and support for unaccompanied minors in particular. Unaccompanied minors will no longer have access under this regulation to bring their family members to Australia under the Special Humanitarian Program. There is no alternative being put in place for them.</p>
  • <p>I have spoken in this place many times about the plight of those who are here as young people, as children, unaccompanied, and how desperate they are to bring their only surviving, if they have any, family members to Australia to be here safely with them. Under these changes to the migration regulations, those children will be condemned to being on their own virtually for years and years and perhaps even forever. It is cruel. It is mean, and it has not stopped anybody taking a dangerous boat journey.</p>
  • <p>Most importantly, the biggest concern is that this does not discourage people, because there is no other option being put in place; it is only going to encourage families who are so desperate to be safe together to take different journeys to get to Australia, risking even more lives in the process.</p>
  • <p>These regulations remove policy concessions for immediate family applicants in order to reduce the size of the special humanitarian backlog. We already know that there is a waiting list of over 20,000 people in this current family reunion application process and we are only resettling a small number of people on this 26-year waiting list. If you are a young family and if you have had to flee the Taliban, you cannot wait 26 years to get the rest of your family out here. No wonder we have more people coming to Australia by boat. We are increasingly seeing more women, children and young people taking these dangerous boat journeys because no other option has been put in place.</p>
  • <p>Last year, despite all the hoopla, all the fanfare and all the hysteria from the Labor government and the opposition in relation to this issue of how mean and nasty our policies had to get in order to deter people from taking dangerous boat journeys, we only took 714 people directly through the Special Humanitarian Program. We only took 714 people in an entire year through direct resettlement, through the family reunion process. No wonder hundreds of others have had to find another way, because they are running from war, persecution and torture. Many of them have had to wait in countries like Malaysia or Indonesia for years and years. Many of them, in fact, have already been assessed as genuine refugees by the UNHCR.</p>
  • <p>When I was on Manus Island last week, I spoke to a number of the refugees there. A number of them had already been found by the UNHCR in Malaysia to be genuine refugees. They had been registered by the UN and they had waited in Malaysia for six years or more, and yet they had never had the opportunity to be resettled. They were not safe while they were waiting there. I was told stories of raids, imprisonment and harsh punishment of people who had been found to be refugees and who were caught by the Malaysian authorities. There was the risk of deportation. It was not a safe place to stay, despite the fact that they all held UNHCR recognised refugee cards. One family I spoke to had waited for six years in Malaysia. And, when it all got too much, when it got too dangerous, they decided that the only option they had was to come to Australia by boat. They have now been locked, offshore, out of sight, out of mind, on Manus Island. They have been told they have to wait in line because of the no-advantage rule&#8212;which, we hear the government say, is about five or six years. But they have already waited five or six years in Malaysia. They have already been recognised as genuine refugees, they have waited there, and no-one helped them. And now we have locked them up. Under these regulations, if they continue, people who find themselves in that position are not allowed to bring out their mother, their wife, their daughter, their son, their children. So of course those people are going to take more dangerous boat journeys.</p>
  • <p>As I mentioned, we have seen before what a failure this policy is, under John Howard's government when he did this exact same thing. People who Australia has accepted need protection have been given refugee status but have been stopped from being allowed to bring their family members. We have seen what a failure this was, because we saw the tragedy of SIEVX. Eleven years ago, 146 children drowned when the SIEVX sank, and that was precisely because fathers and brothers were not able to sponsor their families and to be reunited.</p>
  • <p>One of the other interesting things about the numbers of people we have seen arrive since the Labor government and Tony Abbott's opposition got together and ripped out all meaning of humanity under our immigration laws and we saw the reincarnation of the Pacific solution under the management of Julia Gillard is all of the thousands of people&#8212;almost 10,000&#8212;who have come by boat since 13 August. They have not been deterred by these harsh policies. They have not stopped having to flee war because Australia decided to grow a heart of stone and close the doors. They have not stopped having to search for safety. Out of those 10,000 people who have arrived, a significant number of them are people who already have family members here in Australia. They have had to come by boat because we have not given them a safer option. So rather than punishing vulnerable refugees&#8212;rather than shutting the doors and saying no&#8212;we should be giving people a safer option and a safer pathway, yet all we continue to hear from Julia Gillard and her ministry, backed up by the opposition, is the constant rhetoric of hate and cruelty. All we see is Julia Gillard and the Labor government locked in a race to the bottom, chasing Tony Abbott back down the same dangerous, extreme, irresponsible path that John Howard and Philip Ruddock took us down only a decade ago.</p>
  • <p>There are many, many reasons to be concerned about these regulations, but my main concern is that this is going to put more lives at risk and more families in distress and, rather than deter people, force them to take those dangerous boat journeys, because that is now the only way they are going to get here. They will be thrown in detention, they will be punished and they will go through all of that suffering, but families do amazing things in order to stick together. When they have been in a country full of war, persecution and torture, and when they have had to cling together in order to survive, these families will do whatever it takes in order to be with their sons, daughters, wives, husbands, brothers and sisters. So there is no deterrence factor in this. It is a backward policy. It is a dangerous policy. It has been proven to fail before. It has not just been proven to fail in terms of deterrence; it has led to the direct loss of life at sea. Yet here we are, despite knowing all of that, 10 years on, seeing the Labor Party introduce John Howard's legislation and regulations all over again.</p>
  • <p>I just want to be very clear about how condemned this change of regulation is. There are many, many people and organisations who understand these issues very well, talk to these groups in the community all the time, understand the desperation that these families are in and have expressed their disappointment at the Labor Party introducing these changes. They have strongly suggested that this regulation be disapproved, as I am moving today. There is a long list of those organisations. They include Amnesty International; the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre; Asylum Seekers Christmas Island; the Asylum Seeker Welcome Centre; Bridge for Asylum Seekers Foundation; Balmain for Refugees; CASE for Refugees; the Centre for Human Rights Education at Curtin University; ChilOut; the Coalition for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees; the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network; the Human Rights Law Centre; the Hotham Mission Asylum Seeker Project; the International Detention Coalition; the UNHCR; and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Malcolm Fraser has recognised how dangerous this is. There is an enormous list of people who understand and have not forgotten how dangerous, irresponsible and cruel this policy was last time it was introduced. Despite all of the evidence, despite the fact that no-one has stopped coming since 13 August&#8212;we are now at an absolute peak point of 10,000 refugees locked in immigration detention&#8212;despite the boats not slowing, despite people still coming and despite all of the evidence about how dangerous this regulation is and how much it has failed and risked lives in the past, the government wants to keep steamrolling ahead. This is why members of the community around this country are questioning what on earth has happened to the Labor Party. What are their values? What do they stand for? Because this represents nothing that kind-hearted, intelligent, hardworking supporters of the Labor Party thought that Labor stood for. This is John Howard's policy. This is Tony Abbott's policy. This is about cruelty and irresponsibility. It is a knee-jerk reaction to the most base politics. This is about forcing families and children onto dangerous boats. It is not going to save anybody's life at sea; it puts them more at risk. When people ask what one earth has happened to the Labor Party, you just have to shake your head and think they have absolutely lost their way. This regulation should not go ahead and that is why I have moved the disallowance.</p>
  • <p class='motion-notice motion-notice-truncated'>Long debate text truncated.</p>