Sunday 18 September 2011

Government faces trouble within on migration plan

 Young asylum seeker girl stares out from a boat 
The Federal Government is facing an internal backlash over its proposed changes to the Migration Act. The Government hopes the draft legislation, released on Friday night, will help resurrect the Malaysia asylum seeker deal which was deemed invalid in the High Court last month.

The Opposition, Greens and legal experts are concerned by the plan and there is now also opposition from within the Government.  Labor's Left faction will meet in Canberra tomorrow to discuss the legislative changes to the Migration Act.

West Australian Labor MP and former United Nations lawyer, Melissa Parke, says the bill removes rights of natural justice. She is worried it will not comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child. "It is hard to see how this arrangement could possibly be in a child's best interests," she said.

Ms Parke says she has serious concerns about how the changes comply with the Labor Party's national platform."The bill will take away rights of natural justice, will take away any review by Parliament or by the courts, it's a question as to how that makes Government more open, transparent and accountable," she said.

Under the changes to the Act, the Immigration Minister would be given broad power to send asylum seekers to a third country of his choice for processing, if he can prove to Parliament it is in the public interest. The Government will need the Opposition's support on the proposed changes but it seems unlikely that will happen with the legislation in its present state.

Opposition frontbencher Greg Hunt told ABC's Insiders that the plan removes obligations to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. "There is no protection against sending people back to persecution, the very purpose of international refugee law," he said.

"What they are looking at is breaching all of the Australian obligations and duties under the 1951 convention."He says the Coalition's proposal to reopen a detention centre on Nauru adheres to the refugee convention and he believes it would survive a High Court challenge.

"That's why we want to focus on Nauru. That's why we would say to the Government we have a solution which will both be effective and humane," he said.But Mr Hunt says the Coalition remains willing to work with the Government to change its legislation.

"We're happy to work with the Government if they look at our amendments," he said.
After a briefing on the changes on Friday night Opposition Leader Tony Abbott likened the bill to "offshore dumping". But he is due to meet Prime Minister Julia Gillard at midday tomorrow for a further briefing on the legislation.

Member's of the Labor caucus's International Legal Committee will also discuss the bill tomorrow morning ahead of the Left faction meeting.

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