With the passage of the amendments to the Migration act and the Maritime Powers Act, the Senate has finally granted Scott Morrison his wishes, together with unprecedented powers.
New legislation was not required to release children from Christmas Island or on-shore detention centres.
The government could have released them at any time since coming to office. Instead it chose to use these children as pawns in a cynical game of politics in order to get enough cross-bench senators on-side to enable it to get its real agenda into law.
What, then, is Scott Morrison's real agenda?
What is it that the cross-benchers who supported the government have signed up to? With the Bill now passed by the Senate:
the immigration minister now has unprecedented, unchallengeable and secret powers to
determine the fate of individual asylum seekers.
he can now order asylum-seeker boats to be turned away from Australia's shores, regardless
of the consequences.
he can detain people without charge or deport them, even if he knows that they might face
torture or worse on being sent back.
his new, unprecedented powers mean that asylum seekers will now have no right of appeal
and no access to the Refugee Review Tribunal.
the legislation removes all references to the Refugee Convention, to which Australia is a
signatory, from Australian law.
the legislation makes it clear that international law against refoulement (returning asylum
seekers to a country where they may face persecution, torture or worse) will no longer
apply. Australia will follow a "new, independent and self-contained statutory framework"
that sets out the government's own interpretation of international law. The legislation
gives the government the powers to return asylum seekers to places where they have been,
or will likely be, persecuted or tortured. This is a clear and unequivocal breach of
the legislation reinstates the failed policy of Temporary Protection Visas. (TPVs). These visas
keep people in indefinite limbo and will, as in the past, cause great damage to their mental
health and wellbeing. This, in spite of the fact that, last time round, more than 90% of
people on TPVs were ultimately granted permanent protection. The cost of attempting to
repair their damaged lives has been immense.
And let us not forget:
There are currently 2,151 refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru, including 167 children. They have been told that they will not, under any circumstances, be resettled in Australia. The conditions for them, physically and mentally, are appalling. Their treatment is cruel, immoral and inhumane, and is in contravention of the government's international obligations. There is no end in sight for them.