Thursday, 1 September 2011

Julia Gillard attacks High Court's asylum ruling

JULIA Gillard has accused the Chief Justice of the High Court of inconsistency in his judgments and blamed the court for a "missed opportunity" in tackling people-smuggling.

The Prime Minister said yesterday's High Court ruling rejecting the Malaysian Solution had placed in doubt all offshore asylum-seeker processing.

She said the ruling turned “on its head” previous understanding of the law and went on to lash the court and Chief Justice Robert French himself.

“Can I say, looking at yesterday's High Court decision, I believe that it represents a missed opportunity in preventing us from transferring asylum-seekers to Malaysia at this time,” she said in Brisbane.

“It represents a missed opportunity to enhance our region's response to the evil of people smuggling.

“The current Chief Justice of the High Court, his Honour Mr Justice French, considered comparable legal questions when he was a judge of the Federal Court and made different decisions to the one the High Court made yesterday.”

While the opposition has vowed to continue its push to send asylum-seekers to Nauru, Ms Gillard said the court's ruling could mean all offshore processing was now invalid.

“It is far from clear whether the court's ruling would, practically speaking, permit the operation of offshore processing in other locations, even in locations where offshore processing has been conducted in the past,” she said.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the ruling was likely to have a significant impact on any attempt to send unaccompanied minors to an offshore location.

He said such a move would require ministerial permission that would be judicially reviewable, “which would make the removal of unaccompanied minors to any offshore location, under any regime, one that is highly problematic”.

The Prime Minister defended Mr Bowen - the architect of the proposed Malaysia refugee swap - amid calls from some in the Labor Party for his scalp.

“Minister Bowen at all times acted on the best advice available to him and acted with a clear determination and resolve to break the people-smugglers' business model,” Ms Gillard said.

“That's what I asked him to do as minister.”

With James Massola and Rosanne Barrett


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