Ankle monitors, curfews: Government moves on detainees

The government is rushing through immigration legislation to pre-empt a legal bid by a detainee.

The government is rushing through immigration legislation to pre-empt a legal bid by a detainee. Photo: AAP

Laws imposing strict conditions such as ankle-tracking devices and curfews on criminals being released from indefinite immigration detention have been introduced to federal parliament.

It came as Opposition Leader Peter Dutton continued his attack on the government over the releases.

He alleged there was “a pipeline of 340 people and potentially more beyond that” poised to be let into the community.

“This government has had months and months and months to deal with these issues. And they have chosen not to do so,” he said.

“Why? Because they believe that the rights of these individuals trumped the rights of the victims of these crimes and the future victims of these criminals as well.”

Dutton said the Opposition was being forced to pass the legislation without amendment.

The Coalition plans to introduce amendments – including making electronic monitoring mandatory, bans on working with children and contacting their victims – in the Senate.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles introduced the laws earlier on Thursday, following last week’s High Court decision last week, which found indefinite detention was unlawful.

The laws will apply to the 83 detainees released since the High Court decision and include new visa conditions. Giles said community safety was paramount.

“The government is working to ensure the individuals are managed appropriately under the relevant legal frameworks,” he told parliament.

“The Australian community reasonably expects that all non-citizens in Australia will obey Australia’s laws.”

Giles said measures such as electronic monitoring and curfews would not apply to all of the former detainees. Assessments would made to identify those at the greatest risk of reoffending.

“These measures are consistent with the legitimate objective of community safety and the rights and interests of the public,” he said.

Visa requirements for the released detainees will force them to notify the government of changes of address, or any association with clubs or organisation or individuals involved in illegal activity.

Each breach of the visa conditions would carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

“The High Court’s decision has significant implications for immigration compliance and for the community protection objectives of the government,” Giles said.

“While it is important that we enact this legislation as a priority, further safeguards are being considered.”

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said the laws were urgently needed.

“If I had any legal power to do it, I would keep every one of those people in detention,” O’Neil said on Thursday.

“Some of these people have committed deplorable, disgusting crimes.

“That is why our government is managing the mandatory impact of this law and doing everything that we can to keep the community safe.”

But Refugee Legal executive director David Manne said the planned measures were disproportionate.

“Any new conditions must meet some basic tests: they must be necessary, they must be reasonably proportionate, they must not be punitive or deprive people unnecessarily of their liberty,” he told ABC Radio on Thursday.

“From what we’ve just heard, it sounds like it doesn’t pass the tests at all.”

The government seemed to be reacting to a whipped-up panic, Manne said.

Many of those released after the court decision had already served their sentences and ordinarily would have been quietly released into the community.

Instead, they had been funnelled straight into indefinite immigration detention.

Manne said the government already had wide-ranging powers to impose extensive conditions on immigrants and that those restrictions needed to be exercised with “extreme caution”.

“We shouldn’t readily be handing to the government extraordinary powers to impose severe restrictions on our lives without proper scrutiny,” he said.

The Australian Federal Police commissioner this week briefed his state and territory counterparts about the court’s decision and a joint operation with the Australian Border Force has been established to co-ordinate the release of the detainees.

The High Court is yet to release the reasoning for its decision.

-with AAP

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