Penny Wong blames ‘Peter Dutton-Adam Bandt alliance’ for failure to pass Labor’s deportation laws | Australian immigration and asylum

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Foreign affairs minister Penny Wong has blamed a “Peter Dutton-Adam Bandt alliance” for the government’s failure to rush through “draconian” deportation legislation in the parliament last week.

But Greens senator David Shoebridge, who has described the laws as “draconian”, said the Labor government was alone in supporting the laws without scrutiny, arguing it was “everybody in the parliament except for Labor” who wanted further examination of legislation “that looked like it had been drawn in crayon without any rational basis behind it”.

The Coalition supported a Greens motion in the Senate to send the deportation legislation to a Senate inquiry, despite having voted with the government to pass the legislation through the House of Representatives, after Labor failed to produce reasons for the bill’s urgency.

The inquiry will report back on the bill on 7 May, the first day parliament resumes following the autumn break, although there remains the possibility parliament could be recalled earlier to pass the bill if the government loses a coming high court challenge.

The deportation bill gives the immigration minister the power to direct a non-citizen who is due to be deported “to do specified things necessary to facilitate their removal” or risk a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in prison or up to five years.

It also creates a power to designate another country as a “removal concern country”, which will impose a bar on new visa applications from non-citizens outside Australia who are nationals of a country that does not accept removals from Australia.

The legislation has alarmed human rights and refugee advocates who warn it could have far-reaching unintended consequences, including reversing protection findings of someone previously found to be a refugee.

Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, Wong argued the bill was a “tool” to make the immigration system “stronger” and its powers would have to be exercised in consultation with the foreign affairs minister.

“There might be other diplomatic avenues you would try and go through before you get to that point,” she said.

“But obviously, there’s an issue that we are seeking to address and we’ve worked through that carefully within government about how we might address it, and this is what the legislation is seeking to do.”

Wong said the legislation was aimed at people who had been found not to be refugees, but argued it would not be applied by the Albanese government as a one-size-fits-all.

“It’s not a it’s not something that would be used in a in a blanket way and it’s something that will be used as and when necessary,” she said.

“It’s an important part of our toolkit, in terms of managing migration.”

Wong blamed “politics” for the legislation’s hold-up.

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“It’s regrettable that there we’ve got the Peter Dutton, Adam Bandt’s alliance preventing action on this but so be it, but I just say it says something about the political opportunities,” she said.

Shoebridge, the Greens new home affairs spokesperson, said Labor had “jumped the shark” with the laws, which he said went further than anything an Australian government had previously put forward.

“We have a very unfair asylum system, you know, arbitrary time limits, negative inferences, it’s a very unfair process,” he said.

“We’ve never yet said, ‘Well, if you continue to fear persecution, even though the government doesn’t believe you, we’re going to whack you on a plane and return you against your will to potential jail and persecution in Iran and if you don’t do it, we’re going to put you in jail for a mandatory minimum of one year.’

“And we’ve never yet said, ‘If you don’t sign a passport application for your kids, and take them back as well, we’re going to put you in jail.’ Even under the Coalition we never got there.”

Shoebridge said the inquiry into the legislation would examine the “god-like” powers the bill gave the minister to send people to jail if they did not comply with an order and the “blacklisting” of countries as designated nations.

“They [the government] still might get there [with the Coalition] but even the opposition I think, will be deeply troubled by legislation that is saying to diaspora communities across the country, ‘You may never see your family again.’”