Summary

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The majority agreed that schedule 4 should remain as it is (in parliamentary jargon, they voted that "schedule 4 stand as printed"). This question was put to the Senate after Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young introduced a motion to oppose the schedule.

What is Schedule 4?

The schedule creates a new fast track form of merits review for certain decisions to refuse to give a protection visa. 'Merits review' is a review of a decision by another body that is based on the merits of the applicant's claim. Effectively, the other body decides whether the decision was good or bad in the circumstances and whether they want to confirm or re-make the decision. This new review process only applies to particular visa applicants, including people who arrived in Australia by boat on or after 13 August 2012 (see 'fast track applicant' in item 1), and will be conducted by the newly created Immigration Assessment Authority (IAA).

The schedule also excludes certain asylum seekers from having access to merits review altogether (see 'excluded fast track review applicant' in item 1).

Senator Hanson-Young said that the schedule "was the most fundamental concern of refugee advocates and lawyers who submitted to the Senate's inquiry into this piece of legislation ... [because] [i]t is stripping away people's ability to ensure that they get a fair hearing".

Read more about the issues raised by the changes in schedule 4 in the bills digest.

Bill's main idea

The bill's main idea is to speed up the management of asylum seekers' claims and support the Government's policies that stop asylum seekers from coming to Australia by boat (for example, by intercepting the boats and turning them around). It also re-introduces temporary protection visas "because the Government is of the view that those who arrive by boat without a valid visa should not be rewarded with permanent protection" (see the bills digest)

Human rights issues

Some of the changes made by the bill may go against Australia's international law obligations. Particularly Australia's non-refoulement obligations, which stop Australia from sending people to places where their lives or freedoms are threatened. Australia has these obligations because it signed up to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the United Nations Convention against Torture.

For example, the bill will insert a provision into the Migration Act 1958 that says that Australia’s non-refoulement obligations are not relevant to removing people who are not citizens and don't have a visa. The bills digest explains that this change would mean courts won't be able to stop the Government from removing people just because it is against Australia’s non-refoulement obligations. In other words, the Government wants to decide how to apply those obligations by itself, without any potential judicial oversight.

For more about which changes may go against these obligations and how, see the bills digest.

Background to the bill

The title of the bill says it is about "resolving the asylum legacy caseload". This refers to the asylum claims made by asylum seekers who arrived by boat without a visa between August 2012 and December 2013 and who have not been sent to be processed on Nauru or Manus Island. The Coalition Government says this caseload of asylum claims is the result of the previous Labor Government's policies.

During the 2013 election campaign, the Coalition said it would address this caseload and the changes made in this bill are part of their effort to do this.

More information on the background to the bill is in the bills digest.

Votes Passed by a small majority

Nobody rebelled against their party.

Party Votes
Australian Greens (90% turnout) 0 Yes 9 No
Sarah Hanson-Young SA No
Scott Ludlam WA No
Christine Milne Tasmania No
Lee Rhiannon NSW No
Janet Rice Victoria No
Rachel Siewert WA No
Larissa Waters Queensland No
Peter Whish-Wilson Tasmania No
Penny Wright SA No
Richard Di Natale Victoria Absent
Australian Labor Party (83% turnout) 0 Yes 20 No
Carol Brown Tasmania No
Joe Bullock WA No
Doug Cameron NSW No
Kim Carr Victoria No
Jacinta Collins Victoria No
Stephen Conroy Victoria No
John Faulkner NSW No
Alex Gallacher SA No
Chris Ketter Queensland No
Sue Lines WA No
Joe Ludwig Queensland No
Anne McEwen SA No
Jan McLucas Queensland No
Claire Moore Queensland No
Deborah O'Neill NSW No
Nova Peris NT No
Helen Polley Tasmania No
Lisa Singh Tasmania No
Glenn Sterle WA No
Anne Urquhart Tasmania No
Catryna Bilyk Tasmania Absent
Sam Dastyari NSW Absent
Kate Lundy ACT Absent
Penny Wong SA Absent
Ricky Muir Victoria Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party Yes
Nigel Scullion NT Country Liberal Party Yes
Gavin Marshall Victoria Deputy President No
Bob Day SA Family First Party Yes
Nick Xenophon SA Independent Yes
Jacqui Lambie Tasmania Independent No
John Madigan Victoria Independent No
David Leyonhjelm NSW Liberal Democratic Party Yes
Liberal National Party (100% turnout) 2 Yes 0 No
Matthew Canavan Queensland Yes
James McGrath Queensland Yes
Liberal Party (84% turnout) 21 Yes 0 No
Eric Abetz Tasmania Yes
Christopher Back WA Yes
Cory Bernardi SA Yes
Simon Birmingham SA Yes
George Brandis Queensland Yes
David Bushby Tasmania Yes
Michaelia Cash WA Yes
Richard Colbeck Tasmania Yes
David Fawcett SA Yes
Concetta Fierravanti-Wells NSW Yes
Mitch Fifield Victoria Yes
Bill Heffernan NSW Yes
Ian Macdonald Queensland Yes
Brett Mason Queensland Yes
Marise Payne NSW Yes
Linda Reynolds WA Yes
Michael Ronaldson Victoria Yes
Anne Ruston SA Yes
Scott Ryan Victoria Yes
Arthur Sinodinos NSW Yes
Dean Smith WA Yes
Mathias Cormann WA Absent
Sean Edwards SA Absent
David Johnston WA Absent
Zed Seselja ACT Absent
National Party (75% turnout) 3 Yes 0 No
Bridget McKenzie Victoria Yes
Fiona Nash NSW Yes
Barry O'Sullivan Queensland Yes
John Williams NSW Absent
Palmer United Party (100% turnout) 2 Yes 0 No
Glenn Lazarus Queensland Yes
Dio Wang WA Yes
Stephen Parry Tasmania President Yes
Totals (87% turnout) 34 Yes – 32 No