What’s wrong with the Asylum Legacy Bill – Click here for more information and link to YouTube video for the interview


The Government  has introduced sweeping changes to the way Australia responds to asylum seekers. Amendments to the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014 was passed by the Senate late last year, making it virtually impossible for asylum seekers who arrive by boat to be granted permanent protection in Australia.

We know that a big majority of people who arrive by boat are found to be refugees, and so these changes mean it is more likely that people who need our protection will be returned to danger.

Please take the time to read the information provided here, so that you can lobby effectively against the outrageous infringements on rights (and decency) resulting from this legislation.

See here an interview with Daniel Webb from the Human Rights Law Centre, explaining what’s wrong with the legislation. Note: This interview was recorded prior to the legislation being passed.

Short interview: YouTube – What’s wrong with the Asylum Legacy Bill ? (6 mins)

More detailed interview: YouTube – What’s wrong with the Asylum Legacy Bill ? (21 mins)

See additional information below (or attached):

  1. Submission to the Senate Enquiry (Refugee Advocacy Network) (attachment)
  2. Media release by the Human Rights Law Centre which describes the Bill as “a suite of appalling reforms” (attachment)
  3. Summary prepared by Chilout (attachment)
  4. Key issues with the proposed changes – see below

A list of contact details for the cross-bench senators is below.

See also an email list for all senators – Labor and Coalition senators also need to understand the problems with this Bill and that there is community opposition. (attachment)

If you would like to discuss, email or call Marie Hapke (convenor, Refugee Advocacy Network)   trconcepts@netspace.net.au   0409 252 673

Summary based on information from Chilout

What is the intention of the Bill ? 

The legislation makes it clear that there is no pathway to permanent protection for asylum seekers and refugees covered by the Asylum Caseload (Legacy)Bill.  Note that the rationale for these measures is that people arriving by boat are arriving ‘illegally’, and therefore do not have a legitimate claim for asylum and protection.  This is entirely contrary to the provisions and spirit of the Refugee Convention.

Key issues:

  1. Removing reference to the Refugee Convention – and associated obligations:

The proposed legislation will remove references to the Refugee Convention from the Migration Act, and will replace them with a new statutory framework which articulates Australia‘s interpretation of its protection obligations under the Refugee Convention. … Removing reference to the Refugee Convention from the Migration Act (the cornerstone of our immigration system) essentially allows the Government to turn its back on its protection obligations. It is never acceptable for a signatory nation to simply rewrite a human rights treaty for its own purposes. Under the Asylum Caseload Bill, the Government proposes an amended definition of “refugee”. This means that if one area in an asylum seeker’s country of origin is deemed “safe”, or if the country from which they fled is determined to have a “reasonably effective police force” then they will not be deemed to be a refugee who fears persecution

Note: by definition – many people seeking asylum have in fact fled because they are persecuted by the state, including the police in their own country.

  1. Suspension of the rules of natural justice – removing the possibility of High Court challenges 

The proposed legislation ensures that the exercise of a range of powers cannot be invalidated because a court considers there has been a failure to consider, properly consider, or comply with Australia‘s international obligations, or the international obligations or domestic law of any other country. This means that there will no longer be the possibility of High Court challenges to keep the actions of the Government in check when it comes to implementing punitive policies impacting asylum seekers and refugees.

  1. Boats tow backs to anywhere – or nowhere – and no responsibility for safety of those in towed back vessels

A vessel or a person may be taken to a place outside Australia whether or not Australia has an agreement or arrangements with any country concerning the reception of the vessel or the persons. The legislation clarifies a “place” is not limited to another country or a place in another country. ….. it is no longer necessary for Australia to have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in place with countries in the region, or for that country to be a signatory to the Refugees Convention. By specifying that “place” is not limited to “another country”, the Government raises the possibility of simply towing boats to waters beyond Australian territories and leaving them there.

…excepts certain vessels involved in maritime enforcement operations from the inappropriate application of the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law, the Navigation Act 2012 and the Shipping Registration Act 1981. This removes all responsibility from those charged with turning boats around at sea. It also means that actions such as stripping life boats or floatation devices from boats may be permitted, as well as removing supplies such as food, water or petrol/diesel.

  1. Fast track assessment process with NO access to the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) and very limited review processes.

For those who arrived by boat after 13th August.   Fast turnaround processing was ruled illegal in the United Kingdom in July 2014 as it carried an “unacceptable risk of unfairness”. (see http://www.righttoremain.org.uk/blog/detained-fast-track-asylum-system-ruled-unlawful-by-high-court/)

  1. Babies born to asylum seekers who arrived by boat will not be eligible for any visa

A “transitory person” is an asylum seeker who has been intercepted and taken to an offshore processing centre. Classifying babies born in offshore detention centres as “transitory” perpetuates the suffering experienced by those who are stateless.

  1. Safe Haven Enterprise Visas

The Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) will see asylum seekers sent to regional and remote areas to fill labour shortages once their refugee status has been positively determined……these visas will be valid for a period between 3 and 5 years. Refugees will not be granted a permanent protection visa at the end of this period. Instead, the Minister has stated that if a refugee leaves Australia at the expiration of the SHEV, they may be eligible to apply for an alternative visa (under the humanitarian program, student visa, or the skilled migration program).

  1. Reintroduction of a cap on number of protection visas granted each year

Seeking to reintroduce the cap under legislation that suspends the rules of natural justice is a blatant disregard of past decisions of the High Court.  Note:  The High Court recently ruled that the cap was illegal:http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/FlagPost/2014/June/High_Court_ruling_on_capping_visas_for_refugees

CONTACT DETAILS FOR SENATORS:   See also attached list for other senators. 


senator.madigan@aph.gov.au(voted against the legislation) John Madigan DLP senator.madigan@aph.gov.au Telephone: (02) 6277 3471 Fax: (02) 6277 5967 (VIC)
senator.day@aph.gov.au Bob Day FFP senator.day@aph.gov.au Telephone: (02) 6277 3373 Fax: (02) 6277 5951 (SA)
senator.Xenophon@aph.gov.au Nick Xenophon IND senator.Xenophon@aph.gov.au Telephone: (02) 6277 3552 Fax: (02) 6277 5834 (SA)
senator.muir@aph.gov.au Ricky Muir MEP senator.muir@aph.gov.au Telephone: (02) 6277 3040 Fax: (02) 6277 5720 (VIC)
senator.leyonhjelm@aph.gov.au David Leyonhjelm LD senator.leyonhjelm@aph.gov.au Telephone (02) 6277 3054. (NSW)
senator.lambie@aph.gov.au(voted against the legislation) Jacqui Lambie PUP senator.lambie@aph.gov.au Telephone: (02) 6277 3063 Fax: (02) 6277 5887 (TAS)
senator.lazarus@aph.gov.au Glenn Lazarus PUP senator.lazarus@aph.gov.au Telephone: (02) 6277 3204 Fax: (02) 6277 5904 (QLD)
senator.wang@aph.gov.au Dio Wang PUP senator.wang@aph.gov.au Telephone: (02) 6277 3843 (WA)


Also, Clive Palmer MP is important in terms of influence on this issue
palmer.fairfax@palmerunited.com Mr Clive Palmer PUP  palmer.fairfax@palmerunited.com     Telephone: (02) 6277 4372 Fax: (02) 6277 8484