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    Is this is what Democracy looks like, asks someone during Easter 2005 at the Baxter detention centre

A summary of the Georgiou Bills

This is a copy of communication sent by Petro Georgiou MP to all MP's in the Coalition government on 24 May this year. The communication summarises the two Bills tabled in the Coalition party room that same date. The contents of this page was first published on Margo Kingston's Web Diary.

Legislation for an act of compassion for people in immigration detention and holders of temporary protection visas, and to reform the mandatory detention system

An outline of two Private Member's Bills to be introduced by Petro Georgiou MP, Member for Kooyong

Related pages:

14 June 2005: Countering the Kooyong breakout: Howard supporters and their anti-Georgiou camp strategies - Since the February speech in Parliament by Petro Georgiou, several front-benchers in the Howard government have been beavering away in an effort to control the damage.

8 June 2005: Debunking anti-Georgiou camp tactics - Myths are being peddled by A-G Phillip Ruddock, Hon Peter Costello, intended to influence Mr Malcolm Turnbull and others in the Liberal-National Coalition, in what we see as an attempt to discredit the Petro Georgiou Bills. Here are the facts that debunk those myths.

18 February 2005: The Kooyong Break-out: abandoned backbenchers and 'small-l liberals' revolt - how Petro Georgiou, federal member for Kooyong, leads the quiet pack on a new trail of independence. "One Coalition senator crossing the floor after July 1 will be enough to defeat a Government measure opposed by Labor. Added pressures will come from a large back bench and the frustrated ambitions of those denied promotion."

Text of the two Bills

The full text of the Two Bills is posted at Margo Kingston's Web Diary:

bulletThe Act of Compassion Bill 2005
bulletThe Mandatory Detention Bill 2005


In 1992 Labor introduced a system of mandatory detention of unauthorised arrivals that was intended to facilitate the making and implementation of decisions relating to them.

Since 1996, the Howard Government has pursued and extended that policy framework.

However in recent years the context for our policies has changed significantly.

In particular:

  • The fear of a flood of bogus asylum seekers has not been realised - unauthorised boat arrivals have all but ceased and the great majority of asylum seekers who came by boat were found to be genuine refugees;
  • regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq has seen the cessation of major outflows of people from two main source countries of unauthorised arrivals to Australia;
  • within the region, the activities of people smugglers have been curtailed by the actions of regional neighbours cooperating with Australia, and the operations of the Australian authorities;
  • there is considerable community concern that asylum seekers continue to be detained for lengthy and even indefinite periods, although the perceived crisis period has long passed;
  • asylum seekers have been detained for periods longer than the prison sentences imposed on violent criminals, and may be detained indefinitely;
  • the harmful effects of long-term-detention on detainees' mental and physical health has been documented by health experts and the federal court has recently found that the government failed in its duty of care to provide adequate services to psychiatrically ill long-term detainees at Baxter;
  • decisions about lengthy and indefinite incarceration can continue to be made by the executive with very limited judicial scrutiny;
  • people on temporary protection visas have been welcomed and integrated by Australian communities, and are making a significant contribution, particularly in regional and rural areas.

In recent years, the government has acknowledged the need for greater flexibility in asylum and refugee policies. Measures were introduced to remove women and children from high security immigration detention facilities.

In 2004, new regulations permitted certain temporary visa holders to apply for permanent residence. Most recently, the 'Removal Pending Bridging Visa' was established to permit the release from detention of a small number of long-term detainees.

Nonetheless, women and children continue to be detained for extended periods while their applications for refugee status are determined.

There is no independent scrutiny of whether it is necessary to keep people detained for lengthy or indefinite periods to protect the community or to prevent them absconding.

Many holders of temporary protection visas do not have the occupational or other qualifications to be eligible to benefit from the 2004 reform, and will continue to live in anxiety and fear of being returned to places of great insecurity, still separated from their families.

Additional measures are necessary to ensure that the system is compassionate, fair, accountable and subject to independent scrutiny.

Two private member bills are proposed to achieve these aims while maintaining the integrity of Australia's asylum and refugee system.

The first is directed to alleviate as promptly as possible the plight of individuals who are suffering under the harshness of the current system.

The second bill proposes a model for reform of the mandatory detention system.

1. A bill for an act of compassion

This bill will provide compassionate measures for current long-term detainees and other groups of people who have been most adversely affected by elements of the current asylum and refugee system.

The following paragraphs describe the groups who the first bill will assist.

Long-term immigration detainees

Pending and unsuccessful asylum seekers who have been in detention for more than a year will be released into the community, subject to individual assessment, until their status is resolved.

A current or former judge will be appointed as a 'Judicial Assessor' to examine whether it is necessary to detain each person on the basis of these criteria

  • are they a danger to the public?
  • are they likely to abscond while their visa application is determined or - if unsuccessful - to avoid being removed from Australia?

All those who the Judicial Assessor determines do not need to be detained, will be released, on conditions such as a requirement to report to authorities, if deemed appropriate. In order that their basic needs are met, they will be given the same entitlements as those released under the new Removal Pending Bridging Visa e.g. the right to work and Medicare.

Children and their families in immigration detention

The Judicial Assessor will also examine the cases of all asylum-seeker children aged under 18 who are currently in immigration detention, and their accompanying parents and siblings, irrespective of how long they have been detained.

Children and their parents and siblings will be released from detention pending determination of their applications unless there is a significant risk they pose a danger to the public or are likely to abscond.

Temporary protection visa holders

Refugees living in the community who have been granted only temporary protection will be permitted to remain in Australia permanently. This will benefit people who are living in the community and making significant economic and other contributions, particularly in regional and rural areas.

Permanent residence for people who cannot be removed from Australia

A small number of people unsuccessfully applied for protection visas but cannot be removed to any other country, generally because they are stateless. Some are living in the community and others are in immigration detention.

The bill will end the situation of indefinite uncertainty for these people: if someone has not been able to be removed for 3 years after the final determination of their application for a protection visa, they will be eligible for a visa to remain permanently, with certain entitlements such as the right to work.

There will be additional requirements of eligibility. Permanent residence will only be granted to people who

  • are not in immigration detention;
  • pass the statutory 'character test' for a visa e.g. have no serious criminal record;

  • previously cooperated with the processes for determining their visa application or for arranging removal from Australia.

If the Minister for Immigration decides to refuse to grant a visa to someone, that person can appeal the decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

2. A bill for an Act to reform the mandatory detention system

This bill replaces the system of universal mandatory detention of unauthorised asylum seekers with a targeted system of detention subject to judicial scrutiny. As well, it ends the system of providing only temporary protection visas to some people who have been found to be refugees.

Detention of pending asylum seekers

While their applications are being determined, asylum seekers will be subject to detention only if it is demonstrably necessary to detain them and detention decisions will be subject to judicial scrutiny.

If an asylum seeker arrives without a visa, they will be able to be detained initially by DIMIA for up to 90 days if it is necessary to

  1. verify their identity
  2. assess the application
  3. protect public safety or welfare
  4. ensure the person is available for health checks or
  5. ensure the person is available for removal if his or her application is unsuccessful.

A detained asylum seeker will be allowed to apply to the Federal Court for an order that he or she be released because there are no reasonable grounds to detain them.

After an asylum seeker has been detained for an initial 90 day period, DIMIA may able to apply to the Federal Court for an order to detain an asylum seeker for additional 90 day periods, if it is still necessary to do so in order to verify identity, protect public safety, ensure the person is available for health checks or to ensure the person is available for removal if his or her application is unsuccessful.

People who are released from detention pending the determination of the applications will be granted bridging visas with certain entitlements to meet their basic needs, such as work rights and Medicare - the same conditions that attach to the new Removal Pending Visa.

Unsuccessful asylum seekers who are subject to removal

Pending their removal from Australia, people whose applications for a protection visa have been unsuccessful will be not be detained unless it is necessary to do so on specified grounds and detention decisions will be subject to judicial scrutiny.

Initially, DIMIA will be able to detain an unsuccessful asylum seeker for up to 90 days but only if detention is necessary in order to protect public safety or welfare or to ensure the person will be available for removal from Australia. A detained person can appeal their detention to the Federal Court.

After 90 days, DIMIA can apply to the Federal Court for an order to continue detaining someone on the grounds that

  1. there is a real likelihood of the person being removed from Australia in the reasonably foreseeable future or
  2. if the person were allowed to leave immigration detention there would be a significant risk that the person
    1. would represent a danger to the safety or welfare of the Australian community or to a segment of that community or
    2. would not be available for removal from Australia.

The court can order detention for 90 days recurring.

All protection visas will be permanent.

The bill ends the system of providing only temporary protection to some people who have been found to be refugees.

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