Prime Minister defends deportation bill amid revelations nearly half of released detainees are unmonitored

Kimberley Caines
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has defended Labor’s bid to rush new deportation laws through parliament.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has defended Labor’s bid to rush new deportation laws through parliament. Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has defended Labor’s attempt to rush a deportation bill through Parliament as it is revealed nearly half of the non-citizens released from immigration detention are not wearing ankle bracelets.

The Albanese Government has been under fire since November for not being ready for when the High Court ruled it unlawful to keep people locked up in immigration detention indefinitely.

Mr Albanese on Thursday said his Government found a “loophole” in the migration system and wanted to get it fixed as the Commonwealth faces another High Court challenge next month that could see the release of more than 170 detainees.

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The new bill to make it easier for the Federal Government to deport non-citizens failing to cooperate with authorities failed to get through Parliament this week with the Coalition and the Greens teaming up to refer it to a parliamentary inquiry for scrutiny.

It comes as officials from the Home Affairs Department were quizzed for a second night this week and confirmed that 73 of the 152 former detainees released into the community following the NZYQ decision were not being monitored with tracking devices.

“Seventy-nine of those... have an electronic monitoring condition on their visa,” department operational compliance official Michael Thomas told the hearing.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt told the hearing the removal of the ankle bracelets was based on the advice of the community protection board that was set up in December to prepare applications to lock up the most dangerous non-citizens.

No applications have yet been lodged.

Shadow home affairs minister James Paterson accused the Government of a “cover-up”.

“Half of the 152 detainees are roaming free in the community without any electronic monitoring at all,” Senator Paterson said.

“The Albanese government must front up today. They promised more transparency. They promised regular reporting. They promised to come clean.

“They need to front up today and explain exactly how many of these detainees are out there who are a danger to the community, who are not being monitored, as they said they were.”

Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil during Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, March 27, 2024. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil. Credit: Mick Tsikas/AAPImage

It took Labor eight days to patch up legislation last year to ensure the former detainees released after the November court ruling were sticking to their curfews and were wearing ankle bracelets.

But the Australian Border Force was not prepared and it was more than another week until it acquired the GPS trackers and had them put on.

A new preventative detention regime became law two weeks after that to put the worst offenders — including rapists and murderers — back behind bars.

It was this month forced to reissue visas for the cohort due to a technical bungle, which dates back to 2013.

The Prime Minister hit back at the Coalition for “playing politics” with Labor’s new legislation that would give the Government control to impose a prison sentence of one to five years on asylum seekers who refuse to cooperate with their deportation.

“Everyone had time to scrutinise,” Mr Albanese said on Thursday.

“This is closing a loophole which is there in the legislation — one was there under the former government. To be very clear, this is not about refugees, this is about people who have not been shown to have any right to be in Australia.”

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