Finance Minister Katy Gallagher forced to defend Government’s rushed deportation bill amid Labor dissent

Kimberley Caines
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Australian Finance Minister Katy Gallagher said she wasn’t surprised Senate committee report raised concerns.
Australian Finance Minister Katy Gallagher said she wasn’t surprised Senate committee report raised concerns. Credit: Lukas Cock/AAPImage

Finance Minister Katy Gallagher has been forced to defend the government’s rushed deportation legislation amid reports three Labor senators were among a group of MPs raising the alarm about the bill.

The bipartisan Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills chaired by WA Liberal Senator Dean Smith and deputy chaired by Victoria Labor Senator Raff Ciccone warned against the use of mandatory minimum sentences for non-citizens and banning people from other countries from applying for visas.

It also found the bill was too broad and criticised the speed with which the Albanese Government tried to pass the legislation through Federal Parliament last week, saying it limited scrutiny and debate.

Sign up to The Nightly's newsletters.

Get the first look at the digital newspaper, curated daily stories and breaking headlines delivered to your inbox.

Email Us
By continuing you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.

Senator Gallagher argued it was not uncommon for the committee to look at the technicalities of new laws, claiming its condemnation was no “surprise”.

“It is not unusual to have a Senate committee report that might differ from how the Government tries to get legislation through the Parliament,” Senator Gallagher said.

“Our advice was we had a gap identified in our migration laws. That gap meant they weren’t as strong as they should be.

“We went to move and close it off quickly. The Senate had a different view. The Opposition played politics, and here we are — we’ll try and get it done as soon as possible.”

The other two Labor senators on the committee are Tony Sheldon and Jess Walsh.

Greens Senator Nick McKim and Liberal Senator Paul Scarr are also members.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles introduced the bill to Parliament on March 26 and wanted it passed the following day to give the Government control to impose a prison sentence of one to five years on asylum seekers who refuse to cooperate with their deportation.

The Commonwealth also wants to ban visas from certain countries that refuse to take back their citizens as well as block new visa applications from anyone seeking to come to Australia from places that include Iran, Russia and South Sudan.

When asked if the bill was too rushed, Senator Gallagher said “sometimes you have to do it”.

“It’s not your preferred way of operating. Usually, legislation goes through Senate committees and it has months before (going to) the Parliament but there are times, on occasion, where legislation is urgent,” she said.

“And at those times, we often need the support of the Opposition to get that job done. The Opposition decided not to do that last week, and that means that our migration system has that gap and that gap will remain until the Parliament passes those laws.”

Labor failed in its bid to rush the emergency bill through Parliament after the Coalition and the Greens teamed up to delay the bill by referring it to a parliamentary inquiry for scrutiny with the committee to report back on May 7 — unless Parliament is recalled sooner.

This means the earliest the Government could pass the laws will be the week of the Federal budget on May 14.

The legislation was supposed to pre-empt a High Court challenge on April 17 about a man, known as ASF17, who is refusing to cooperate with the Government because he fears he would be harmed if he was deported back to Iran.

Latest Edition

The front page of The Nightly for 15-04-2024

Latest Edition

Edition Edition 15 April 202415 April 2024

Justice Lee finds Lehrmann ‘hell-bent on having sex’ with Higgins and ‘didn’t care if she knew what was going on’