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Lawyers boost policy debate

A LIBERAL backbencher’s suggestion to introduce a bill to release long-term detainees has sparked support from the peak body representing the legal profession.Petro Georgiou MP last week called…

A LIBERAL backbencher’s suggestion to introduce a bill to release long-term detainees has sparked support from the peak body representing the legal profession.

Petro Georgiou MP last week called for reform of the federal Government’s mandatory detention system. He told the House of Representatives on Monday last week that under the current mandatory detention system there are no explicit public interest grounds for deciding whether it is necessary to detain asylum seekers in high security detention.

“In the current international, regional and domestic circumstances, I believe there are compelling arguments for the system to be reformed,” he said. “I intend to pursue that cause vigorously. I commend the motion to the House.”

The member for Pearce reiterated these views, and told the House of Representatives: “We’re not trying to overturn the government’s policy of mandatory detention. We’re just asking for a more compassionate approach, a more independent approach, greater transparency, and greater accountability.”

The Law Council of Australia (LCA) has applauded Georgiou’s initiatives, saying they were consistent with its own “long-held” views. “The current mandatory detention system has resulted in significant injustice for many individuals, and must be more exposed to public scrutiny,” said LCA president John North.

North said the Australian public is getting to see the failure of this country’s mandatory detention system, since the exposure of the experiences of Peter Qasim, Cornelia Rau, Vivian Alvarex Solon, Naomi Leong, and their families.

The LCA has made submissions to the federal Government proposing new laws relating to the indefinite detention of unsuccessful asylum seekers.

“We informed the Government at that time of our concern that the current operation of immigration detention laws is disproportionately harsh and that the law is now arguably at odds with notions of human rights,” said North.

“The Law Council has been seeking a dialogue with the Government about these matters for some time as civil liberties that are fundamental to the rule of law in this country,” he said.

The Prime Minister last week responded to the question related to the “reported intention of the member for Kooyong to move a private member’s bill to change the Government’s detention system” and the statement made by the member for Pearce. He suggested the Government’s view on mandatory detention was part of its overall plan “to end Australia as a destination for illegal immigration and for people smuggling”. He said it “remains the policy of this Government to keep a policy of mandatory detention”.

“That policy, as has been demonstrated by the announcements made some two months ago by the minister for immigration, will continue to be one where opportunities to administer it in a flexible and more compassionate way will be taken advantage of. That is an ongoing process,” he said.

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