Australia’s High Court decision on the 31st of August ruled the Gillard government’s planned swap of asylum seekers with Malaysia illegal. Despite that decision, on the 12th September, Prime Minister Gillard stated, “We are determined to pursue the arrangements we have made with Malaysia.”
The government is now seeking to change section 198a of the migration act, which is the section to lower the threshold in relation to human rights standards. The PM said, “The amendments we will bring to the parliament will be broad amendments which will restore to executive government the ability to make the arrangements that it sees fit, for the transfer and processing of asylum seekers in third countries.”
Ms. Gillard also said the proposed changes to the act would allow the government to use former detention centres at Nauru and Manus Island for offshore processing. She then went on to say, “He [Tony Abbott] can criticise Malaysia up hill and down dale and I will maintain my objection to Nauru.”
Mr. Abbot said that while the coalition supported offshore processing, it “remained opposed to the Malaysia deal; I make the point it’s bad policy”
Greens leader Bob Brown said, “After the high court decision, it’s very clear that Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott are edging towards an unholy alliance on immigration, to get around international law to allow offshore processing of asylum seekers coming to this country, it’s very clear that that’s illegal.”
Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young remained opposed to sending the new arrivals overseas. She said, “They can change whatever domestic law they like, if they can get that through the parliament, dumping vulnerable people especially children in Malaysia, where their rights would not be protected was a breach of the UN refugee convention and the convention on the rights of the child.”
The people covered by this law are seeking asylum in Australia, a sanctuary to be safe from something. There is no doubt they are jumping the queue, in front of people who are waiting patiently, using official channels.
The message the government wants to send to those who arrive unannounced, seeking sanctuary for themselves or their children is “Don’t jump the queue, don’t come to Australia. If you do try it, you will be sent somewhere else and kept in unspecified conditions.”
As with all governments, when they are losing the game, they just change the rules.