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Re-detention laws rushed through after fourth ex-immigration detainee arrested

Eleanor Campbell NCA NewsWire
The government has kicked into damage control after a fourth former detainee was charged. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
Camera IconThe government has kicked into damage control after a fourth former detainee was charged. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

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, sparked by the High Court’s ruling against indefinite detention, 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.

Immigration Minister Andrew 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.

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

Clare O'Neil, Clare O'Neil, Andrew Giles PRESSER
Camera IconThe government has kicked into damage control after a fourth former detainee was charged. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

Shortly after the motion was brought for debate about 9pm, federal police confirmed they had charged a 45-year-old man with one count of theft at a Melbourne hotel.

This came one day after Victorian police confirmed that a third released detainee had been arrested after failing to meet his “reporting obligations as a registered sex offender”.

Leader of the House Tony Burke said his department had begun filing court applications to put some former detainees back behind bars.

He said the government had taken “swift action” to push through law changes in the wake of the ruling despite criticisms from the Coalition that the government was not prepared for the decision.

“To be clear, it would not capture all the detainees released since the High Court decision,” he said.

“This considered, measured and responsible legislation will see individuals re-detained where a court is satisfied that the person poses an unacceptable risk of committing a serious violent or sexual offence.”

Clare O'Neil, Clare O'Neil, Andrew Giles PRESSER
Camera IconAttorney-General Mark Dreyfus said his government wouldn’t apologise for the High Court’s decision. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

Questions over the Bill dominated parliament this week as the Coalition sought to pressure the government over its response to the ruling, which resulted in the release of more than 140 detainees, including some convicted of murder and sex offences.

Opposition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan called Labor “gutless” for shutting down debate on the issue.

“What a shambles, what chaos, you don’t even want to debate the No.1 priority of any government: to keep the community safe. You’re hiding, it’s time the Prime Minister stood up,” he said.

Under the new laws, a non-citizen would be re-detained if, after an application from the minister, a judge found that they posed a high risk of committing a serious violent or sexual offence.

The government has not confirmed how many criminals could return to custody.

‘Train wreck’

Former attorney-general Michaelia Cash called on Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus to apologise for his “outrageous” behaviour at a press conference while senior Labor ministers have defended his actions, arguing that the government should not be held responsible for the High Court’s decision.

Mr Dreyfus attracted serious criticisms from both the Coalition and the media on Wednesday after shouting down a female Sky reporter over a question on whether the government should apologise for its response to the detainee saga.

“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.

QUESTION TIME
Camera IconMichaelia Cash said Australians had been put at risk. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

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

Health Minister Mark Butler said it was an unfortunate position that “laws that in some cases have been in place for 20 years since John Howard was prime minister have been knocked over by the High Court”.

“We’ve seen some awful reoffending by a small number of these detainees but we’ve been determined to put in place laws that, as far as possible, would be robust, would be strong and would allow us to do our job of protecting the community,” he said.

Labor’s Indigenous Affairs Minister Malarndirri McCarthy said it was good to see the Attorney-General upholding the law.

“I did reflect on what it is like to be in that position of asking questions in my time as a journalist. I was in a similar situation once and trying to ask a pretty hairy question,” she said.

“And 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.”

Originally published as Re-detention laws rushed through after fourth ex-immigration detainee arrested

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