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Almost no silver lining in new TPV cloud

  • 08 December 2014

Thursday evening’s Senate debate on the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill illustrated the truly unacceptable choices faced by the cross bench Senators. Labor and the Greens opposed the Bill and unsuccessfully sought to move amendments to reduce its harshness. But what finally passed will haunt us for years to come.

The speeches by Senators Xenophon, Madigan and Muir are worth reading, as they show what happens when Senators are faced by an intransigent Government determined to reintroduce bad law. Law that we know causes serious stress and mental harm, yet we have reintroduced it. 

In deciding to reluctantly support a bad law, Senator Xenophon set out his reasons, and they make compelling reading.

It has and will continue to be a passionate debate about a wicked and vexed issue. For me it is always important, always, to remember that we are dealing with legislation that relates to people, our fellow human beings. They are not numbers; they are not the myriad of labels that have been applied to them by all sides of the debate; and they are not political inconveniences, punching bags or props. They are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends, neighbours and acquaintances. They are, in short, people just like you and me who have found themselves in extraordinarily difficult circumstances —some, unimaginable circumstances. …

Senator Xenophon spoke of his fear that not passing the Bill was worse than passing a flawed Bill:

… If this bill does not pass there is also the real risk that the government will use a nonstatutory process instead, which will not result in any better outcomes for the people who are currently in Australia. This problem is a true Hobson's choice: we are left to decide between two potentially negative outcomes. … What is being proposed by the government here is by no means perfect—in fact, it is quite imperfect—but the consequences of not supporting it will mean that asylum seekers will be in a worse position, in my view.

The Senator spoke of amendments agreed to by Government, which while not great, are better than nothing. Senator Muir also voted reluctantly for the Bill and stated: 

Coming to a decision on this bill has been, without a doubt, one of the hardest decisions I have had to face—a choice between a bad option and a worse option. It is a decision that involves human beings: children, mothers, fathers.