Sunrise host Nat Barr has grilled a Labor politician over the government’s rushed introduction of laws overnight to monitor 84 hardened criminals released into the community after a High Court ruling.
The nation’s highest court ruled indefinite immigration detention is unlawful and detainees must be released, prompting Labor’s emergency laws this week which include mandatory ankle bracelets and curfews.
Three of those released are murderers, one of whom killed a pregnant woman in Malaysia, and another was previously jailed for raping a 10-year-old boy in Sydney.
Education Minister Jason said on the program on Friday he had never seen laws passed so quickly in his 16 years in Parliament, but Barr told him hardworking Aussies were not impressed with the cost of monitoring these offenders.
‘Jason $180,000 every month. That’s the estimate on top of the welfare payments, the housing. Can you understand why taxpayers are not happy,’ Barr asked the minister.
‘Yeah, I get it. But this is not about money. This is about safety.
‘If we had our way, these people would still be looked up. But that’s not an option. The High Court has ordered that these people be released. We had to do that.
‘And that’s why we had to pass these laws to make sure that we keep Australians safe.’
This prompted Barr to question why the government did not have a ‘contingency plan’ in place beforehand.
‘Jason why did you just pass them yesterday? You, by your own admission argued very strongly against them being released but then these laws were rushed through yesterday. Why not before?’ Barr said.
‘You are putting a positive spin on this. This made your government look bad, didn’t it, because it made you guys look flat-footed because you didn’t pass these laws before it happened.
‘You must have known it was a possibility. These murders and rapists could have got out.
Sunrise host Nat Barr labelled the government ‘flat-footed’ after rushing through laws following the High Court’s ruling on indefinite detention
Minister for Education Jason Clare (centre) said he had never seen laws passed so quickly in his 16 years in Parliament
Mr Clare fired back arguing the process of legislation had to happen after the High Court’s ruling.
‘You have to make sure the laws are written to respond to the decision of the High Court,’ he said.
‘Otherwise they don’t work.
‘The Australian people are dirty with this decision. If we had our way, these people would still be locked up,’ he added.
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.
‘The good news is when the cameras have been turned off the two major parties Labor and Liberal have worked well behind- the-scenes over the course of this week to get this legislation in place,’ Mr Clare explained.
‘What it shows is when the Parliament wants to work it can work. It’s done that over the last 24-hours.’
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.’
Liberal senator James Paterson criticised Mr Albanese for dodging responsibility by jetting off overseas ‘while criminals remain free to roam the streets’.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in currently in the USA for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit
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.