The majority voted against an amendment proposed by Greens Senator Hanson-Young, which would require that a new category of person be defined in the legislation. This category is 'vulnerable person' and would apply to a person aged under 18 years or a person who is the parent or guardian of someone aged under 18 years. This means that children and their parents or guardians would not be taken to regional processing facilities.
Someone who votes aye for this amendment supports these measures. The majority voted no to this amendment, so it was unsuccessful.
Background of the Bill
This bill was introduced in response to a report by the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers, particularly Recommendation 14 which states that: "the Migration Act 1958 be amended so that arrival anywhere on Australia by irregular maritime means will not provide individuals with a different lawful status than those who arrive in an excise offshore place".(Read the full report here. )
By implementing this recommendation, the bill extends the excision regime that was introduced in 2001 following the Tampa affair. That regime provides that asylum seekers who arrive in Australia at excised offshore places are unable to apply for protection visas (in effect, refugee status under Australian law) unless the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship decides it is in the public interest that they do so. The effect of this bill will be to extend the excision provisions to the whole country.(More information on the Migration Amendment (Unauthorised Maritime Arrivals and Other Measures) Bill 2012 is available on the bills digest (680 KB). Also see an ABC news report explaining the effect of this bill here.)
This means that all asylum seekers arriving by boat in either mainland Australia or an offshore Australian territory that has been excised are unable to apply for protection visas and will be sent to regional processing countries (currently Papua New Guinea and Nauru) for the processing of their refugee claims. The rationale behind this legislation is the need to discourage asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat because of the dangers involved.