A man wearing an ankle tracking device.
Criminals released from indefinite immigration detention will be forced to wear ankle bracelets. Image by AP PHOTO
  • politics

Tough new migration bill passes parliament

November 16, 2023

Tough laws imposing strict visa conditions on criminals being released from indefinite detention have passed federal parliament.

The legislation passed in a late-night sitting of parliament on Thursday with amendments agreed to by the government and the coalition.

The bill, which has been fast-tracked through parliament, will impose conditions on former detainees such as ankle-tracking devices and curfews.

Under the amendments, electronic monitoring and curfews would be made mandatory, rather than being at the discretion of the immigration minister, while those affected would be banned from taking part in organised activity that involves children.

Former detainees would also be barred from being within 150 metres of a school or daycare centre, while those who have been convicted of sexual assault or violence offences would be able to have a no-contact condition placed on their visa.

Each visa breach would be considered a separate offence, with mandatory minimum sentences imposed.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles introduced the changes following the High Court decision last week that found indefinite detention was unlawful.

The laws will apply to the more than 80 detainees released since the High Court decision.

The opposition had been pushing the government on the potential threat posed by criminals, including three murderers and a number of sex offenders, who were released into the community.

Mr Giles said the safety of the community remained the highest priority.

“From the moment the High Court handed down its decision we have been implementing measures to keep the community safe,” he told parliament.

Opposition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan said the laws were a good first step following the High Court decision.

“We’ve taken significant some significant steps to keep the community safe. We still think there is further steps that need to be taken, but that’s a debate now for another day,” he said.

Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles said the government agreed with the amendments in principle.

“The basis on which we are doing this is because we are in a position where this must be resolved immediately,” he told parliament.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young criticised the amendments as an “absolute disgrace”, in addition to being an attack on democracy and the rule of law.

“I know there are members of the Labor Party who are hanging their heads in shame,” she said. 

“They know that ramming this piece of legislation through is wrong, is immoral.”

Andrew Giles presents the emergency Migration Amendment Bill changes.
 Andrew Giles says the safety of the Australian community is paramount. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

Liberal senator James Paterson criticised Mr Albanese for dodging responsibility by jetting off overseas “while criminals remain free to roam the streets”.

Government Senate leader Penny Wong urged the opposition to stop “playing politics” and pass the legislation as soon as possible to keep Australians safe.

Greens immigration spokesman Nick McKim said the “draconian laws” would provide the minister with powers never before seen in Australia, and the passing of the legislation was a “dark day”.

“It is an utter disgrace, an abject craven capitulation by a party (Labor) that has forgotten where it has come from, and forgotten what it used to stand for,” he said.

The laws would create a two-tiered justice system for some migrants and refugees in comparison with Australians, he said.

New visa requirements for the released detainees will force them to notify the government on a change of address, or any association with clubs or organisations or individuals involved in illegal activity.