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Speech on Labor's draconian anti-refugee bill

On Tuesday 26 March 2024, I made a speech in Federal Parliament about Labor's appalling anti-refugee Bill. You can watch the full speech here or read the transcript below.


This is a draconian bill. There's no better word for it. It's even worse than the legislation of the previous government. There seems to be a race to the bottom on this. We were briefed on this for the first time a mere half an hour ago, I think. This is another secretive, underhand introduction of what, on our advice, appears to be a very, very poorly drafted bill. We smell a big rat here. It's very similar to other events that we've had this week, where it appears that the government has been absolutely ashamed of the legislation that they're putting to us. They are not prepared to properly explain it to us. We do not have the opportunity to have proper debate or scrutiny of this. Shame on the government. There's something going on here.

This bill vests overarching power—unscrutinised, as previous speakers have said—for the minister to do pretty much what they want. It gives the minister the power to criminally incarcerate these people for one to five years as criminals and, at the end of that term, again, to have the sole discretion to extend that criminal term in an interminable cycle. That is why it's draconian. The minister mentioned the words 'recalcitrant countries'. That is Trumpian language for a truly Trumpian bill. It's giving the minister what's been described as 'autocratic powers', meaning sole powers without any scrutiny and without any ability for people to actually resist them or to have any say in the process. That's draconian. The minister claims that this is better and stronger and in the national interest, but what is the national interest here? Why is this being rammed through the House so urgently? I would ask the minister: what is this urgency? We haven't had any reasonable explanation for this. We need time to consider this important legislation—why not? As previous speakers have mentioned, it's central to the relationship between government and the High Court.
It's absolutely critical that all Australians understand what's going on here. We should be able to debate this properly.

We haven't had any rational argument about why it is so urgent. Labor have said that they were opposed to mandatory sentencing. This is mandatory sentencing! There is apparently a list of these recalcitrant countries. Are we going to be able to see that? No—another secret and another cover-up. In my electorate office right at the moment we are assisting live cases based on these issues. They are going to be absolutely upended by this rushed legislation, with no-one having the opportunity to understand what's going on here. The wool is being open pulled over our eyes once again. Shame, shame, shame on this government.

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