Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil has hit back at calls for her resignation after three asylum-seeking detainees, including registered sex offenders, were arrested following their release after a landmark High Court decision.
Australia’s High Court on November 8 ruled that indefinite immigration detention is not constitutional where there is ‘no real prospect’ of deportation becoming ‘practicable in the reasonably foreseeable future’..
The decision resulted in the release of at least 148 detainees – including several dangerous criminals – whose detention met that condition.
Among those include Afghan refugee Aliyawar Yawari, 65, who was charged with indecently assaulting a woman at a hotel in South Australia on Saturday.
Mohammed Ali Nadari, 45, was arrested over drug charges in New South Wales.
On Monday, Emran Dad, 33, a registered sex offender who was the ringleader of a child exploitation gang, was arrested in Melbourne for allegedly making contact with minors on social media and breaching his reporting obligations.
Ms O’Neil was confronted by Sunrise host Monique Wright, who asked: ‘You’ve said on this program it is your job to keep Australians safe.
‘Now, three detainees have now been rearrested on new charges. Should you resign as the Coalition says?’
O’Neil hit back and said she is doing everything she can to try and protect the community, including teaming up with the opposition to ram through a new preventative detention law that would put some recently released detainees back behind bars.
‘If it were up to me, all these people would never have been released from detention.’
Wright continued to press the minister further.
‘Claire with the benefit of hindsight now, two of the three of these arrested detainees, they’re sex predators.
‘Now, when you look back, do you wish you had got on the front foot? ‘Could you have done something sooner about this and tried to get these laws through preventively?’
Ms O’Neil responded: ‘Some of these are very bad people who have done very bad things, and that is the exact reason why when I had the power to keep them in detention, I would.
‘I have three children, as if I want these people walking on the street.
‘The job for the government is to make sure we can provide ways to protect the community within the new laws that have been set down by the High Court of Australia. That’s exactly what we’re doing.’
Yesterday, Ms O’Neil took steps to implement preventive detention legislation, typically applied to terrorists and spies, in order to re-incarcerate some of the detainees.
Home Affairs minister Clare O’Neil has lashed critics who accused her of ‘botching’ the release of immigration detainees and demanded she apologise to the Australian public
The preventive detention laws were approved by the Senate on Tuesday night and will be presented for debate in the lower house later on Wednesday.
But coalition senator Jane Hume said the government should have had legislation ready before the High Court’s decision so it was ready to go as soon as the ruling was handed down to prevent the release of any detainees.
‘First of all, you could have made a much better submission to the High Court, and you botched that,’ Ms Hume told the minister on Wednesday.
‘Then you released all of those detainees when the said you had to release one. You didn’t wait for the High Court’s ruling.
‘Then you failed to get to those pre-tentative detention measures in place which you could have done months ago.
‘Instead, you blamed your department, you’ve blamed the High Court. You’ve blamed the Coalition, you’ve blamed Peter Dutton. But this is on you.
‘You owe the Australian community an apology and if you’re a responsible minister, you would also offer your resignation. This is a test now of the Prime Minister. He should sack you.’
Ms O’Neil hit back, saying she was ‘right now’ taking accountability on live TV.
‘I’m not sure what you can be possibly complaining about,’ she told Ms Hume.
‘We’re actively right now having a political debate. I’m talking to you about these issues and being accountable for them.’
Opposition Finance Minister Jane Hume (pictured) claimed the government should have had legi
The government says it was hamstrung by the High Court decision, which mandated the release of detainees in the same situation as the original complainant, NZYQ.
Legislation could not have been put in place to detain the whole cohort due to the ruling, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said as he offered to show the opposition legal advice from the solicitor-general.
‘Following the High Court decision and reasons in the NZYQ matter, it is not legally possible to legislate to require the detention of all of the NZYQ-affected individuals on community safety grounds,’ he wrote in a letter tabled in the Senate.
Any delay in releasing affected detainees could open the government and individual officers up to legal claims of false imprisonment, he added.
The opposition is pushing for stronger requirements from the ministers who ticked off on the release of detainees, calling for a statement of reasons as to why they needed to be set free.