Opposition slams Albanese Government’s immigration detention policy as being out of control

Kimberley Caines
The Nightly
Shadow Home Affairs Minister James Paterson.
Shadow Home Affairs Minister James Paterson. Credit: News Corp Australia

The Opposition has slammed the Albanese Government’s immigration detention policy, saying it is getting out of control as Labor is urged to act to re-detain the worst released offenders.

Shadow Home Affairs Minister James Paterson has accused the Government of being “incompetent every step of the way” since the NZYQ High Court in November ruled it unlawful to keep people locked up in immigration detention indefinitely.

This sparked the immediate release of 149 non-citizens, with the worst of the group convicted of murder, paedophilia and other violent crimes.

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The Government has admitted it has lost control of key aspects of Australia’s migration laws, as it prepares for the release of more detainees.

Senator Paterson said the Government’s briefing with journalists on Friday was a “desperate attempt” to lower expectations about its handling of the issue and called on Labor to re-detain the worst of those already released.

“We have a risk now, that is that offenders, foreign offenders, are in the community reoffending against Australians,” Senator Paterson told ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday.

“People are victims, who shouldn’t have been, because these people should not have been released. Once they were, they should have been taken off the streets.”

Shadow Attorney-General Michaelia Cash said the Government had made a “fatal error” in the case involving the detainee known as NZYQ.

“This is a Government that themselves admitted to the High Court in June of last year, that there was no reasonable prospect of removing NZYQ, which then set the High Court upon a path,” Senator Cash told Sky News.

“Justice (Jacqueline) Gleason herself of the High Court was almost pleading with the government saying you’ve made the admission you are going to lose the case, you now need to do something — and the government did nothing.

“We would never have made the admission... that was the fatal error in this case, and it is an error that the Attorney General refuses to take any responsibility for.”

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil on Friday conceded there was still a large amount of “uncertainty” around laws pertaining to stateless indefinite detainees.

“The High Court, through a series of major decisions, has drawn new boundaries around the powers of the executive and the Parliament,” Ms O’Neil said.

“And there continues to be uncertainty about exactly where those boundaries will ultimately be drawn when it comes to key aspects of migration law.”

Ms O’Neil said Labor’s focus at all times was on community safety.

The Federal Government rushed through preventative detention laws in the wake of the High Court’s ruling to allow them to detain former detainees for up to three years if a court deems they are an unacceptable risk to the community.

The Home Affairs Department has hired an extra 46 lawyers to wade through millions of pages of paperwork to help build cases to put the worst freed detainees back behind bars under preventive detention orders.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles said progress had been made but a lot of work was required to put the applications together.

“The Government has made significant progress towards applications for preventive detention, but there is a very high legal threshold to be met for a successful outcome,” Mr Giles said.

“We’re working through up to 35,000 documents per person in order to make the strongest possible applications.”

Immigration detention is expected to dominate Federal Parliament this week as politicians return to Canberra for a sitting fortnight.

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