Parliament passes preventive detention laws amid reports fifth immigration detainee arrested

Courtney Gould, Eleanor Campbell and Ellen RansleyNCA NewsWire
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Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: News Corp Australia

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has refused to comment on reports a fifth former immigration detainee, released into the community after last month’s landmark High Court decision, had been arrested.

A former Sudanese child soldier was arrested in Queensland on Thursday after it was realised there was a warrant to return to jail for allegedly breaching parole conditions before being placed in immigration detention in 2012.

NSW Police confirmed via a statement that a 39-year-old man was arrested in Queensland on an outstanding NSW “revocation of parole arrest warrant” in relation to the offence of assault occasioning bodily harm.

The man is expected to be extradited to NSW later on Thursday.

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A cohort of 148 people have been released into the community after the High Court found indefinite detention was unlawful.

A raft of measures, including preventive detention, have since been passed by the parliament, but the government has been under fire for failing to prepare for the likelihood of the High Court overturning precedent.

The Coalition’s imigration spokesman, Dan Tehan, asked about the fifth arrest during Question Time on Thursday, suggesting the man was released “without any checks being carried out”.

He asked Mr Giles to confirm details, to which the minister “quoted” Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, saying he would not comment on individual cases so as to not jeapordise any potential court cases.

Camera IconImmigration Minister Andrew Giles will not comment on individual cases. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

“I will say this, on November 10, we set up … a joint task force between the AFP and the ADF to work closely with state and territory police forces to share information and enforce visa conditions, steps that have been enhanced by the legislation that passed the parliament late last night,” Mr Giles said.

Earlier in Question Time, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton asked Prime Minister Anthony Albanese whether he would apologise to the Australian people given up to five of the cohort of 148 had potentially reoffended.

“Community safety is our priority,” Mr Albanese responded.

“I am sorry anytime anyone is a victim of a crime, committed at any time against any victim.”

Nationals MP Sam Birrell later asked about another former detainee - previously convicted on child sex offences - who has been re-arrested after allegedly attempting to contact a minor online.

Camera IconThe Coalition has used the last Question Time to grill the government over the High Court decision. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

Mr Albanese said he was “sympathetic with anyone, any of the circumstances, we have had to deal with these because you have to deal with the law as it is, just as the former government did”.

“Just as the former government did during the nine years, during the nine years in which it was in office and barely a month went by where there was a not a circumstance such as this,” he said.

Later, Mr Tehan put to Mr Albanese that given Mr Giles had now confirmed he “released a criminal with an outstanding warrant into the community”, whether he would now “take action and sack” the minister.

Mr Albanese said Mr Giles and Home Affairs Minister CLare O’Neil had done “more to address this issue int he last month than those opposite did in nine years”.

“After the High Court made the decision that they did, our government has been focused on fixing this,” he said.

Tough new laws pass parliament

The federal government will re-detain the “worst of the worst” among former immigration detainees after it passed its new preventive detention laws during a heated late-night debate.

The laws passed on Wednesday just hours after it was revealed a fourth former detainee was arrested.

The government said it had already begun court applications to re-detain the most serious offenders among the 148 asylum seekers who were released from immigration detention last month.

Mr Giles told parliament the new regime would lock up prior offenders based on their ongoing reoffending risk and the laws would apply to the most serious cases, rather than all members of the released group.

“This proposed preventive detention regime would allow for a court to detain the worst of the worst offenders,” he said.

Camera IconMr Albanese has heralded the passing of preventive detention reforms. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

Major win for Albo’s workers promise

Unions have heralded an 11th-hour deal that was struck to pass the government’s signature industrial relations laws before parliament rises for the year.

Employment Minister Tony Burke confirmed the Closing Loopholes Bill would be split in two to allow the more uncontroversial measures to be passed on Thursday following negotiations with Jacqui Lambie and David Pocock.

That includes the criminalisation of industrial manslaughter and wage theft and protections for people experiencing family and domestic violence from being discriminated against at work.

New protections for emergency service workers who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder will also be legislated and the national work health and safety compensation authority, Comcare, will be reformed.

After a swift debate the laws passed the Senate shortly after midday, and were rubber stamped in the lower house on Thursday afternoon.

Camera IconA deal has been struck on the government’s closing loopholes legislation. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said Thursday’s announcement was “a welcome Christmas present for working people”.

“The Australian public understand that this legislation delivers better rights for workers which deliver better wages during the cost-of-living crisis. These changes will make work a safer place to be as well as give workers a pay boost at a time where they really need it,” she said.

“The rest of the Bill must pass in the new year. We won’t leave truckies, casual workers and gig workers behind. The job is unfinished until that happens.”

The Coalition’s employment spokeswoman Michaelia Cash, meanwhile, lashed the “dirty” deal.

“At its simplest, this is a government seeking to deliver a union agenda,” she said.

The Coalition supported the original crossbench proposal to split the Bill to pass less contentious elements, but Senator Cash said Thursday’s agreement was “an attack on labour hire”.

Business Council of Australia PRESSER
Camera IconThe business industry has long criticised the IR bill. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

Deal has ‘eroded remaining trust’

Master Builders Australia has led the chorus of business groups lambasting Thursday’s announcement, saying any remaining trust between the business community and the Albanese government has “today been eroded”.

Chief executive Denita Wawn said it was disappointing neither Senator Pocock or Senator Lambie consulted with the industry before doing the deal.

“The unions are today celebrating their Christmas gift while tradies and Australians who are grappling with a cost of living and housing crisis will foot the bill,” Ms Wawn said.

“The labour hire changes expected to pass today undermine a range of legitimate arrangements in our industry, including the use of labour hire and specialist service subcontractors.

“If you’re a subbie like a brickie, a tiler, a sparky or a plumber, you are now in the firing line. We know they were not the intended target of this change, but the government has failed to hear their pleas.”

She said the MBA continued to “strongly oppose” the rest of the Bill, including changes to independent contracting, union right of entry powers and casual workers.

What happens next

The rest of the measures will be dealt with in the new year after a parliamentary committee reports back in February.

Mr Burke declared it a “really good day for workers’ wages and a really good day for workers’ safety”.

“All for the measures that were in my Bill that were part of the private member’s Bills that senators Lambie and Pocock moved, all of that can be done today,” he said.

“Criminalising industrial manslaughter can be done today, reforms to Comcare can be made today, making wage theft a crime can be done today and enclosing the labour hire loophole.

“You’ve seen the ads, ‘Same job, Same Pay’ can be done today – all of that is possible.”

Mr Burke indicated that independent senator Lidia Thorpe had also given her support.

Camera IconSenators David Pocock and Jacqui Lambie were instrumental in Labor agreeing to split the Bill. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

“In the Senate today, the closing loopholes Bill will be divided into closing loopholes and closing loopholes 2. The remaining measures will be dealt with at the time that had already been announced at the first possible opportunity next year,” he said.

“And I have to say, I am even more optimistic about those remaining provisions because of the goodwill that we’re showing today, and the goodwill and good intentions of the crossbench.”

Senators Pocock and Lambie said they would consider the remaining parts of legislation in “good faith” next year.

Junior minister to visit Middle East

Foreign Minister Penny Wong says her junior minister will be tasked to travel to the Middle East as she repeated her call for steps towards a “sustainable” ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Assistant Minister Tim Watts will travel on behalf of the Australian government to the region, she told Senate question time on Thursday.

“Australia supports President Biden’s five principles for post conflict, Gaza, including no forcible displacement of Palestinians, or reduction in territory and no use of Gaza as a platform for terrorism,” she said.

“I also advise the Senate that Assistant Foreign Minister Watts has been tasked to travel on behalf of the government to the region to lay the groundwork.”

Camera IconForeign Affairs Minister Penny Wong says her junior minister would travel to the Middle East. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin last week said protecting Palestinian civilians in Gaza was both a moral responsibility and a strategic imperative.

“The future for both Israelis and Palestinians depends on a just and enduring peace and a two state solution,” she said.

“Clearly the status quo is failing”.

She said that every innocent life that has been lost in the conflict should be mourned.

The senator repeated her call for Israel to respect international humanitarian law and that civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, must be protected.

“The world has witnessed a harrowing number of civilian deaths including children. This must not continue,” Senator Wong said.

More than 2200 Australians have left the region since the conflict began on October 7, including more than 900 from Israel and 143 Australians and permanent residents from Gaza.

She said the decision by Hamas to break the recent pause in hostilities was a “grave setback”.

“Australia wants to see this resume and we support international efforts towards a sustainable ceasefire”.

But said this cannot be “one sided”.

‘Significant’ NDIS changes ahead 

A landmark final report into the NDIS has proposed a significant five-year overhaul of the disability insurance scheme amid rising concerns over lack of access and unsustainable costs.

Question Time
Camera IconGovernment Services Minister Bill Shorten said the NDIS report was a ‘significant moment’ in Australia’s history. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

The probe, released earlier on Thursday, proposed 26 recommendations and 139 actions to “restore trust and pride” in how disability services were funded

It’s called for the government to immediately focus on attracting, retaining and training disability workers to meet future workforce demands and invest in greater support outside of the NDIS.

It said the creation of an improved early intervention pathway for children was “critical”, as more than half of NDIS participants were under the age of 18.

Government Services Minister Bill Shorten said the report marked a “significant moment in Australian history”.

He said a full government response to the review would be released in 2024.

Major deal signed with PNG

A new security agreement that will have Australia do more to train Papua New Guinea police has been inked after a months delay.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his counterpart James Marape officially signed the long-awaited deal on Thursday morning.

“It will make it easier for Australia to help PNG address its internal security needs and for Australia and Papua New Guinea to support each other’s security in the region for stability,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Canberra.

Prime Minister Marape and Albanese
Camera IconThe deal was signed on Thursday. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

The agreement included a new support package for policing infrastructure and training for the Royal PNG Constabulary.

But Mr Marape denied the deal was essentially a signal the nation had picked the side of Australia and the US in the ongoing strategic competition with China in the region.

“It’s never picking a side, every relationship has its own particular ways,” he said.

“Our major foreign policy as friends to all and enemies to none remains … it’s never at the expense of our relationships elsewhere.”

Mr Albanese had hoped negotiations on the agreement to be signed off on by June but talks were stalled after PNG signed a defence deal with the US in May.

The signing of the US defence co-operation agreement sparked controversy on the Pacific Island nation.

‘Pretty standard’: Labor defends MP’s blow up

Mark Dreyfus’s temper tantrum at a Sky News reporter has been downplayed as nothing more than a “heated exchange” by Labor frontbenchers.

Camera IconSenator Malarndirri McCarthy defended Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus’ outburst. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

The Attorney-General sparked headlines on Wednesday morning when he shouted at journalist Olivia Caisley for asking if the government owed an apology to people affected by the reoffending of three people released from immigration detention.

Almost 150 detainees were released following NZYQ High Court ruling, which found holding non-citizens in indefinite detention was unlawful.

Mr Dreyfus said he would not apologise for upholding the rule of law and following an order of the High Court, called Ms Caisley’s question “absurd” and bellowed at her to “do not interrupt” when she tried to interject.

Tanya Plibersek danced around whether the exchange was appropriate when she fronted up to defend the “passionate” Mr Dreyfus on Thursday morning.

“It’s a very heated exchange between a passionate Attorney-General, who has spent his whole life defending the rule of law, and a journalist who was doing her job … and pursuing the government to get answers,” she said.

Clare O'Neil, Clare O'Neil, Andrew Giles PRESSER
Camera IconMr Dreyfus was under fire for his reaction to the reporter’s question. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

“There was a heated exchange. But I think, you know, the Attorney-General, saying that he’s not going to apologise for upholding the rule of law is a pretty standard thing to say.”

Pressed further if she was comfortable with how it all played out, the Environment Minister said: “I think people should stay calm whenever they can, in public life and in politics”.

“But what you saw was a heated exchange between an excellent lawyer general and an excellent journalist.”

Earlier, Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy insisted Mr Dreyfus “responded appropriately”.

“I think we all recognise that there are pressures but I do believe that the Attorney-General responded appropriately in terms of upholding the Australian law and no doubt,” she said.

“The journalist in question is also looking at the way that whole scenario took place.”

She said there was “nothing wrong with the questions, I think it’s more the interruption”.

Dreyfus should apologise: Coalition

It comes as the Coalition’s legal affairs spokeswoman Michaelia Cash called on Mr Dreyfus to apologise for his “outrageous” behaviour

Clare O'Neil, Clare O'Neil, Andrew Giles PRESSER
Camera IconThe Coalition has claimed the whole saga was a ‘train wreck’. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

“I believe that he should (apologise) because reporters are entitled to ask questions. The question was a very, very fair one – are you going to apologise to the Australian people for your completely botched response to this situation?” Senator Cash said on Thursday.

“We have had four detainees who have been released have reoffended. This is a rolling train wreck.”

Mr Albanese confirmed during Question Time on Thursday that Mr Dreyfus had spoken to the reporter, apologised, and had a “courteous discussion” with her.

“When our standards aren’t met in this place that we expect, that’s the appropriate course of action to take,” Mr Albanese said.

Originally published as Parliament passes preventive detention laws amid reports fifth immigration detainee arrested

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