Wilkie’s Speech to the House of Representatives

The following is the text from Andrew Wilkie’s speech to the House of Representatives on the subject of Adverse ASIO Security Assessments.

Mr WILKIE (Denison) (10:21): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Mr WILKIE: The purpose of this bill is to reinstate the right of access to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for asylum seekers with adverse security assessments. Currently asylum seekers are denied such an appeal option because of a special carve-out for what are referred to as unauthorised maritime arrivals in the ASIO Act. The issue here today and with this bill is not that there should not be security assessments or that genuine risks to Australian national security should not be prevented from entering the community. Regrettably, it has been the case over years that a handful of people have attempted to enter Australia by irregular means, and they have been found—genuinely—to be security risks. But, at the same time, there have been many people who have attempted to enter Australia through irregular means and who have received an adverse security assessment from ASIO, only to ultimately have those adverse assessments overturned. They were found to be in error or, for whatever reason, not warranted.

So, the issue is not about whether or not we should have security assessments. The issue is not whether or not there could be a very small number of people who are genuine security risks in this country. The issue today really is one about fairness and openness. If we accept that all people are equal, and if we accept that it is a fundamental basis of our system that all people should have the right to appeal an adverse finding against them, to challenge an adverse assessment, then why on earth do we have this situation in Australia where an Australian citizen who receives an adverse security assessment is entitled to make an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal but an asylum seeker is not? The bottom line is that in our law an asylum seeker is regarded as a second-class human being who somehow is inferior and should have fewer rights than an Australian citizen. That is wrong, and this bill would remedy that by removing that carve-out from asylum seekers from the relevant part of the ASIO Act.

The situation we have at the moment, where asylum seekers do not have the right to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, clearly puts us at odds again with our responsibilities under international law. It clearly contravenes, among other things, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. I will refer to four particular sections. Article 9.1 says that no-one shall be subject to arbitrary detention. But the problem with Australian law currently is that for detention not to be arbitrary people must be sufficiently informed of the reasons for it and there must be individualised consideration of its necessity and whether less-restrictive options might be available. There also needs to be a legal right to seek effective review of the reasons for detention and the security assessment underpinning it. But Australian law contains none of these safeguards.

Article 9.2 goes on to say:

Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest …

This right extends to non-criminal arrest and detention, and it will be violated when people are not adequately informed of the basis for the security assessments underpinning their detention, but, again—and this is where I get to Australian law—contains nothing to prevent such violations from occurring.

In article 9.4 the convention says:

Anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court …

They need to be able to challenge a loss of liberty on the basis that it is arbitrary, unnecessary and disproportionate. Again, this option is not effectively the case in Australian law, so long as the carve-out exists in the ASIO Act in regard to asylum seekers.

Articles 7 says:

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment …

And article 10.1 says:

All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.

It goes on after that. My concern here is that the current arrangement where asylum seekers are denied appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal clearly puts Australia at odds with our obligation as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is not just international law where we are erring. Even Australia’s human rights commissioner has made comment about this. In 2013, Professor Jillian Triggs said that she strongly supports extending the rights to merits review in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to refugees who have received and adverse security assessment.

The government might say to me that I am on the wrong track and that in fact the so-called Stone review is a mechanism that does give asylum seekers with adverse security assessments a proper avenue for appealing that adverse assessment. But as welcome as the establishment of the Stone review was and is, it is still an inadequate mechanism for asylum seekers with adverse security assessments to make their case again, because quite frankly, while the Stone review does provide some limited oversight and review of adverse security assessments, and it is something to build on, it does not cure the process of its fundamental shortcomings in law. The Stone review, for instance, is a non-legislative process operating solely as a matter of policy, and it can be discontinued on a whim. Individuals have no legal right to petition for a review by the Stone review. So in a sense it is not actually a right of appeal. It is at the whim of whoever is running the review at the time.

I suggest that the problem here is that this is another punitive measure by a cruel government with a cruel policy. That is the bottom line here: it is punitive. It is another way of saying to those millions of displaced people and people on the move around the world that we are a tough country and we are going to be tough on you, and you had better not try to come our way. It is a punitive and cruel measure. It is not the sort of measure that a sophisticated and civilised country like Australia should be allowing.

I make the point again—and I must have said it 100 times in this place—that until Australia starts acting like a rich and civilised country and honouring the spirit and word of the refugee convention then we are going to have a terribly black mark against our name. I would like to thank the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce for helping me develop this bill, and also the Human Rights Law Centre in Melbourne. They have both been very helpful, and both are very exercised about this matter and are firmly of the view that it is quite improper to continue denying asylum seekers access to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. I commend the bill to the House.

Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (10:30): I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

By | 2018-01-04T16:14:04+10:00 September 2nd, 2014|guantanamo|

Churches Call on Government to Debate ASIO Amendments for refugees by Andrew Wilkie today

The Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce is calling on the House Selection Committee to list for debate the Bill tabled by Andrew Willkie today– the ASIO Act Amendment (Restoring Merits Review) Bill 2014.

Vice-Chair of the Taskforce, Sister Suzette Clark rsc, said today that “the Bill aims to reintroduce some procedural fairness to those asylum seekers who are being held in indefinite detention. These people have been assessed as refugees but are being held in jail-like conditions in Villawood and Broadmeadows detention centres because ASIO has given them an adverse security assessment. At present, there are 42 men and 2 women who are in this distressing situation, and some of them are facing their 6th year of indefinite detention. It is shocking! ”.

Sister Suzette called on all Members of the House of Representatives to ensure that this Bill is debated: “Our elected representatives must realise that these particular refugees are not only being locked up without a key, but are also not allowed to know on what basis they have been locked up. This is undemocratic and inhumane”.

The Executive Office of the Taskforce, Ms Misha Coleman, said:  “It’s been clear through conversations with many members of the House of Representatives and Senate that they were not aware of the full impact of the recent Migration Amendment Bill (2013) which they passed through Parliament earlier this year. “

Ms Coleman said that “the Bill introduced today by Andrew Wilkie is a really positive step towards ensuring that everyone is equal before the law. It’s also important to point out that this Bill doesn’t change ASIO’s powers in any way.  We acknowledge that ASIO assessments are critical in protecting our national security, but like all taxpayer-funded government departments, the process by which they are made, explained and reviewed needs to be consistent.”

Sister Suzette Clark said, “Australian Churches are calling for  justice for these  44 people being indefinitely detained. They are human beings and should be treated with dignity and compassion.  The passage of Andrew Wilkie’s  Bill would be one step in achieving justice.”

 More about the Churches Campaign can be found at

Drawing from one of the refugees who is indefinitely detained, is overleaf.

Media inquiries:

Sister Suzette Clark, Vice-Chair Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, 0439 710 218.

Misha Coleman, Executive Officer, Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, 0428 399 739.

Download the word doc:Church Taskforce Press Release-ASIO Private Members Bill

By | 2018-01-04T16:14:04+10:00 September 1st, 2014|guantanamo, Press Releases|

Alternatives to Indefinite Detention

37. Alternatives to protracted detention in secure immigration detention centres might include:
(i) increased use of ‘open facilities’ such as at Inverbrackie;
(ii) increased use of community detention;
(iii) use of appropriate control orders, including monitoring;
(iv) use of case specific or ‘tailor-made” reporting arrangements to match the risk;
(v) special hearings to consider release and conditions of release (along the lines of ‘bail’ hearings);
(vi) best interests of the child determinations for children affected by the adverse security assessments
of their parents or principal caregivers.

This information is taken from paragraph 37. See the full UNHCR Report: Expert Roundtable on National Security Assessments for Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Stateless Persons in Australia. Canberra 3 May 2012.

Plans underway to expel those who sought asylum under previous Government

From Sri Lankan newspaper “The Island” comes this story, by Shamindra Ferdinando, April 26, 2014.

The Australian government is working closely with Sri Lanka to expel a group of bogus Sri Lanka refugees in accordance with an ongoing project meant to ensure what Australian Immigration and Border Protection Minister Scott Morrison called a serious border protection regime.

Australia launched ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’, an unprecedented military-led initiative to discourage those trying to secure refugee status through illegal means.

Minister Morrison emphasized Australia’s determination to extradite even those who had entered the country illegally during the previous administration, when he addressed the second Australia-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on people-smuggling and transnational crime at Hyatt Hotel, Canberra last Tuesday (April 22).

The Sri Lankan delegation was led by Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

Minister Morrison insisted that those illegals who had transited through other countries to reach Australia wouldn’t be accepted under any circumstances. The minister declared: “Ensuring prompt removal of those who have no lawful basis to be here, is a critical component of any serious border protection regime.”

The first Australia-Sri Lanka JWG met in Colombo in August 2012.

The government of Sri Lanka earned the appreciation of Minister Morrison on behalf of Australia for its successful efforts to curb human smuggling as well as facilitating the extradition of those deprived of refugee status.

Morrison was speaking two days before a Bay Class patrol vessel gifted by Australia was brought to the port of Colombo by an SLN crew. The vessel reached Colombo on the morning of April 24. The SLN will take delivery of a second Australian vessel in June.
Having returned from Australia, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa said that the ongoing operation meant to protect Australian borders had greatly strengthened bilateral relationship between the two countries. During his brief stay in Canberra early this week, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa had the opportunity to meet several senior politicians and officials. Defence Secretary Rajapaksa said that Minister Morrison in his address at the Hyatt explained the status of the ongoing operation and the need to further expand bilateral relations. The Defence Secretary quoted Minister Morrison as having said that cooperation on human smuggling operation would pave the way for trade as well as commercial opportunities,

Minister Morrison and Defence Secretary Rajapaksa last week met at a security conference in Malaysia.
Morrison called for tougher and coordinated action against organised criminal networks to prevent them from exploiting rapid advances in communications, transport, technology et al to engage in clandestine operations.

In line with the Australian government’s policy of backing countries working closely with it, Prime Minister Abbott announced gifting of two Bay Class patrol vessels each to Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

Defence Secretary Rajapaksa said that Australia had facilitated a workshop for 39 magistrates in May-June last year under its overall plan to strengthen Sri Lanka’s capacity to tackle the problem. Rajapaksa said that the ongoing operation had succeeded in crippling human smuggling operatives. He described the operation as one of the most successful actions undertaken against human smuggling.
Minister Morrison had pointed out that there hadn’t been a successful human smuggling operation during the past four months. During the previous year the situation had been so bad there were 100 smuggling operations resulting in the arrival of 6,000 illegals during January-April period.

By | 2018-01-04T16:14:13+10:00 June 5th, 2014|guantanamo|

Coalition and ALP support bill that enshrines indefinite detention of asylum seekers

Migration Act amended to exclude refugees with bad security assessment – Coalition and Labor combine forces in Senate to pass bill while Greens rage against it. By Paul Farrell and Oliver Laughland,, Wednesday 14 May 2014 17.20 AEST.

The Senate has passed a controversial amendment to the Migration Act that would prevent refugees who have received an adverse security assessment from seeking a protection visa. The amendment expressly excludes people who have been given adverse security assessments by ASIO from receiving protection visas.

The legislation may mean some refugees are held in detention indefinitely. ASIO assessments of people who are non-citizens cannot be reviewed, and people found to be refugees cannot be returned to their country of origin, placing them in legal limbo.

The bill was passed with the support of the Labor party and Coalition. Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said: “With this bill, the Abbott government has guaranteed the permanent, indefinite detention of refugee families.

“This cruel and unnecessary move from the Labor and Liberal parties will damage vulnerable people and Australia’s international reputation.

“This bill will see dozens of refugees who have received secretive adverse ASIO assessments locked up on Australian soil, without charge and with no chance of release.”

Human rights and legal advocacy groups expressed concerns about the bill. The Human Rights Law Centre said there were no safeguards for people found to be refugees who had been granted an adverse assessment.

“A refugee who receives an adverse ASIO security assessment may be indefinitely detained. The proposed reforms do not contain adequate procedural checks and balances to ensure such detention is not arbitrary,” its submission said.

ASIO’s process of imposing security assessments has led to thousands of complaints to the intelligence watchdog. An independent review system was established by the previous Labor government, and numerous decisions were ultimately overturned by ASIO.

The passing of the bill comes just after an urgent appeal was made to the United Nations human rights commissioner and special rapporteurs on behalf of asylum seekers.

Ben Pynt, a director of the human rights research organisation Humanitarian Research Partners, lodged the appeal on behalf of asylum seekers on Manus Island.

The appeal, a copy of which has been seen by Guardian Australia, contains a summary of events during the Manus unrest in February as well as details of conditions inside the centre garnered from multiple sources.

“Speaking to people at Manus Island, I feel I am bearing witness to crimes against humanity. Not only are the physical and environmental conditions at the centre deeply oppressive, but there is also severe mental stress placed on asylum seekers to coerce them into returning to their home countries,” Pynt writes.

“The men are being effectively broken to the point where some see return to places like Syria as a legitimate option.”

By | 2018-01-04T16:14:16+10:00 May 22nd, 2014|guantanamo, Latest News|

Australia’s Guantánamo Problem

On a remote, sunny island, some 52 people have been detained for up to nearly five years without trial on secret evidence, with no prospect of release. A series of suicide attempts since 2012 speaks to their profound suffering. One man attempted to hang himself with a bedsheet. Another tried to electrocute himself. Another drank bleach. Another cut himself and used his blood to leave a message on a wall. All remain in detention; the government dismisses them as attention-seekers. Read the full story by By Ben Saul in the  New York Times.

By | 2018-01-04T16:14:23+10:00 March 25th, 2014|guantanamo, Opinion, The Dilemma of Return to Sri Lanka|