Fast-tracked visa law to pass, as Labor bows to Coalition

Emergency laws for freed asylum seekers

The federal government expects its fast-tracked asylum seeker detention laws to pass Parliament within hours after it agreed “in principle” to Coalition amendments.

In response to a question from Opposition Leader Peter Dutton on Thursday, Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles said the Albanese government was working co-operatively with the opposition on its six amendments.

They include mandatory curfews and monitoring for criminals being released from indefinite immigration detention due to last week’s High Court ruling, and a ban on them working with children and vulnerable people.

“The basis on which we are doing this is because we are in a position where this must be resolved immediately,” Marles said.

“This has been done on the basis that it passes this parliament today, passes the Senate this afternoon, and passes this House [again with amendments] later this evening.

“The way in which we have cooperated across the aisle demonstrates that, notwithstanding differences and debate, Australia can look to their political leaders and their legislators as people who will act in the interest and work together to keep the community safe.”

Thursday’s developments came as the opposition continued to pound the government about what it claims are “hardened criminals” being released.

“Will the Acting Prime Minister pass preventative detention legislation to stop the 340 hardened criminals from being released?” Coalition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan said.

The Coalition has also renewed its criticism of Prime Minister Albanese, who is in San Francisco for an APEC meeting. Liberal senator James Paterson criticised Mr Albanese for dodging responsibility by jetting off overseas “while criminals remain free to roam the streets”.

The opposition is focused on the potential threat posed by criminals, including three murderers and several sex offenders, who are among more than 80 people released into the community following the High Court ruling that indefinite immigration detention is illegal.

On Thursday morning, Immigration Minister Andrew Giles introduced legislation imposing strict conditions such as ankle-tracking devices and curfews.

It was quickly passed by the House of Representatives. Dutton supported the laws, but said the measures were too little, too late from the government.

The Senate is expected to sit until late on Thursday to pass the bill.

But the opposition also spent much of Thursday ramping up its rhetoric on the issue. Earlier, Tehan appeared to suggest the government should find a way to circumvent the High Court’s ruling.

“What I would say to the minister is, say to your department that you want that outcome. Don’t sit there and listen to all the reasons why it might be difficult or there might be trouble in doing it,” he said.

“Learn to be a minister, actually direct your department to get you the outcome that the Australian people want. And it’s very clear what that outcome is … They want these people re-detained. We need a new regime in place to do it.”

In Question Time, Tehan asked if the government would introduce “preventative” legislation to stop more detainees being released.

In response, Marles said Labor was looking for “steps that we take [that] are legally robust” to address the court’s immigration detention ruling.

“I acknowledge, and the government acknowledges, the anxiety that has been felt throughout the community from the very moment that the High Court made its decision,” he said.

“From that moment, we have been looking at every way we can in respect of ensuring that the steps that we take are legally robust. We do nothing to promote community safety by taking steps in this place which will not survive legal challenge – and that is to state the most obvious fact.”

The prompted an interjection from far north Queensland MP Bob Katter: “Is the High Court running the country or you?”

Marles said those freed from indefinite detention were going in the community “under the strictest conditions”.

“We have taken the steps that we’ve taken today in terms of moving legislation which places further conditions in relation to those people. And we will continue to look at options, but we will do so in a way where what we pass here is legally robust,” he said.

The government’s actions have also been condemned by the Greens. Spokesman Nick McKim said the “draconian laws” would provide the minister with unprecedented powers.

“It is an utter disgrace, an abject craven capitulation by a party (Labor) that has forgotten where it has come from, and forgotten what it used to stand for,” he said.

The laws would create a two-tiered justice system for some migrants and refugees compared to Australians, he said.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young also criticised talks between Labor and the Coalition on amendments as an “absolute disgrace”.

“The crossbench has not seen these amendments, the crossbench has not been briefed on them,” she told parliament.

“This government wants to work with the opposition to ram through this bill without notice.”

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

Each breach conditions would bring a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Greens leader Adam Bandt and fellow party members Stephen Bates and Elizabeth Watson-Brown, were the only MPs to vote against the laws in the House on Thursday.

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

Many of those released after the court decision had already served their sentences and ordinarily would have been released into the community, he said. Instead, they had been funnelled straight into indefinite immigration detention.

-with AAP

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