The majority voted against Government amendments, which means they failed. The amendments would have allowed the Minister to declare certain items as prohibited, including things like narcotic drugs, mobile phones, Subscriber Identity Module (SIM cards) and child pornography.

What did the amendments do?

According to the relevant supplementary explanatory memorandum:

The Government amendments amend the Migration Act 1958 (Migration Act) to allow the Minister to determine a thing as prohibited. Such a thing will be a prohibited thing in relation to immigration detention facilities and detainees. These things may include narcotic drugs, mobile phones, Subscriber Identity Module (SIM cards), child pornography and other things of concern. The amendments also strengthen search and seizure powers, including the use of detector dogs for screening of detainees and visitors and a new statutory power to search facilities operated by or for the Commonwealth, in order to enforce both the existing and new prohibitions.

The profile of the detainee caseload across the immigration detention network has changed significantly over the past two years. Immigration detention facilities now accommodate an increasing number of higher risk detainees awaiting removal, often having entered immigration detention directly from a correctional facility, including child sex offenders and members of outlaw motorcycle gangs or other organised crime groups.

Evidence indicates that detainees are using mobile phones to coordinate and assist escape efforts, as a commodity of exchange, to aid the movement of contraband, and to convey threats. There are also reports that mobile phones have contributed to:

  • abusive and aggressive altercations between detainees with mobile phones and Unauthorised Maritime Arrival detainees who are already prohibited from accessing mobile phones;

  • use of force incidents resulting from the removal of controlled item have included, but are not limited to, detainees being held while trying to abscond from a search and the use of mechanical restraints after death threats were made to an officer; and

  • efforts to coordinate internal demonstrations to coincide with external protests.

The presence of narcotic drugs and other dangerous things in the immigration detention network poses a risk to the ongoing safety, security and order across the network. For example, razor blades have been used to disrupt and delay transfer operations and food has been used to conceal contraband including narcotic drugs.

The existing search and seizure powers in the Migration Act are not sufficient to manage narcotic drugs, mobile phones, SIM cards or other things that are of concern within the context of immigration detention facilities. The amendments seek to improve these powers in order to enhance the health, safety and security of persons within immigration detention facilities and the order of these facilities.

Specifically, the amendments amend the Migration Act to:

  • insert new definitions under subsection 5(1) to define section 273 detention centres and places approved in writing by the Minister or under subparagraph (b)(v) of the definition of immigration detention in subsection 5(1) of the Migration Act (otherwise known as Alternative Places of Detention (APODs)) collectively as ‘immigration detention facilities’ and to define a ‘prohibited thing’;

  • insert new section 251A to enable the Minister to determine, by legislative instrument, prohibited things in relation to immigration detention facilities. These things will include illegal things, specifically narcotic drugs and child pornography and things that present a risk within immigration detention facilities including mobile phones and SIM cards;

  • insert new sections 252BA and 252BB to allow authorised officers and officers’ assistants to search immigration detention facilities operated by or on behalf of the Commonwealth without a warrant, including accommodation areas, administrative areas, common areas, detainees’ rooms, detainees’ personal effects, medical examination areas and storage areas;

  • strengthen the screening and seizure powers in relation to detainees in sections 252, 252AA, 252A, 252B, 252C and 252CA;

  • strengthen the powers under section 252G in relation to a person about to enter an immigration detention facility operated by or on behalf of the Commonwealth to expressly allow an authorised officer to screen and search for narcotic drugs and other prohibited things; and

  • enable the use of detector dogs for screening detainees, and persons about to enter an immigration detention facility operated by or on behalf of the Commonwealth, and for searching these facilities.

Amendment text

See sheet JC574 for amendment text.

What does this bill do?

According to its bills digest, the purpose of the Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2018 is to:

  • clarify that where the removal of a non-citizen from the migration zone to another country is unsuccessful, a visa is not required to bring the person back to Australia and they remain subject to statutory bars on subsequent visa applications, where applicable (Schedule 1)
  • provide that the Minister may make documents available to a person by way of an online account (Schedule 2)
  • provide that the Commonwealth may appropriate money from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to pay refunds, rebates or drawbacks of customs duty in circumstances where those payments have no other statutory basis (Schedule 3)
  • specify that regulations may make provision for the charging and recovery of fees in relation to the Passenger Movement Charge (Schedule 4).

Votes Not passed by a small majority

Nobody rebelled against their party.

Party Votes
Cory Bernardi SA Australian Conservatives Yes
Australian Greens (100% turnout) 0 Yes 9 No
Richard Di Natale Victoria No
Mehreen Faruqi NSW No
Sarah Hanson-Young SA No
Nick McKim Tasmania No
Janet Rice Victoria No
Rachel Siewert WA No
Jordon Steele-John WA No
Larissa Waters Queensland No
Peter Whish-Wilson Tasmania No
Australian Labor Party (72% turnout) 0 Yes 18 No
Carol Brown Tasmania No
Kim Carr Victoria No
Anthony Chisholm Queensland No
Jacinta Collins Victoria No
Don Farrell SA No
Alex Gallacher SA No
Chris Ketter Queensland No
Kimberley Kitching Victoria No
Jenny McAllister NSW No
Malarndirri McCarthy NT No
Deborah O'Neill NSW No
Louise Pratt WA No
Lisa Singh Tasmania No
David Smith ACT No
Glenn Sterle WA No
Anne Urquhart Tasmania No
Murray Watt Queensland No
Penny Wong SA No
Catryna Bilyk Tasmania Absent
Doug Cameron NSW Absent
Patrick Dodson WA Absent
Kristina Keneally NSW Absent
Gavin Marshall Victoria Absent
Claire Moore Queensland Absent
Helen Polley Tasmania Absent
Centre Alliance (100% turnout) 0 Yes 2 No
Stirling Griff SA No
Rex Patrick SA No
Nigel Scullion NT Country Liberal Party Absent
Derryn Hinch Victoria Derryn Hinch's Justice Party No
Sue Lines WA Deputy President No
Lucy Gichuhi SA Independent Yes
Tim Storer SA Independent No
Fraser Anning Queensland Independent Absent
Steve Martin Tasmania Independent Absent
David Leyonhjelm NSW Liberal Democratic Party No
Liberal National Party (100% turnout) 2 Yes 0 No
Matthew Canavan Queensland Yes
James McGrath Queensland Yes
Liberal Party (78% turnout) 18 Yes 0 No
Eric Abetz Tasmania Yes
Simon Birmingham SA Yes
Slade Brockman WA Yes
David Bushby Tasmania Yes
Michaelia Cash WA Yes
Richard Colbeck Tasmania Yes
Mathias Cormann WA Yes
Jonathon Duniam Tasmania Yes
David Fawcett SA Yes
Concetta Fierravanti-Wells NSW Yes
Mitch Fifield Victoria Yes
Jane Hume Victoria Yes
Ian Macdonald Queensland Yes
Jim Molan NSW Yes
Linda Reynolds WA Yes
Anne Ruston SA Yes
Zed Seselja ACT Yes
Amanda Stoker Queensland Yes
Lucy Gichuhi SA Absent
James Paterson Victoria Absent
Marise Payne NSW Absent
Arthur Sinodinos NSW Absent
Dean Smith WA Absent
National Party (100% turnout) 3 Yes 0 No
Bridget McKenzie Victoria Yes
Barry O'Sullivan Queensland Yes
John Williams NSW Yes
Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party (100% turnout) 2 Yes 0 No
Peter Georgiou WA Yes
Pauline Hanson Queensland Yes
Scott Ryan Victoria President Yes
Brian Burston NSW United Australia Party Yes
Totals (82% turnout) 29 Yes – 33 No