On 14 November, the Law Council lodged a submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee Inquiry into the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016. The Law Council expressed a series of concerns with the Bill, including the:
- violation of Article 31(1) of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees with regards to the imposition of a penalty based on the mode of arrival;
- Bill appears to be neither necessary nor proportionate to its intended objective;
- retrospective application of the Bill, insofar as it adversely affects people’s rights and legitimate expectations and operates to punish them for past actions of seeking safety; and
- power of the Minister to lift the bar on valid applications in the ‘public interest’ is broad and not subject to review.
Only 1 ½ business days were provided from the announcement of the submission deadline to when submissions were due. Given the challenging circumstances, the Law Council is particularly grateful for the input of Committees and Constituent Bodies.
On 15 November 2016, Fiona McLeod SC, President-Elect, and Nick Parmeter, Director of Policy, appeared before the Senate Committee to speak to the Law Council’s submission. The Senate Committee reported on 22 November 2016, with their positions divided along party lines, with Government Senators supporting passage of the Bill and Labor and the Greens recommending against passage of the Bill.