Australia

‘A very bad thing’: Peter Dutton slams High Court's Aboriginal 'aliens' ruling

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. Source: AAP

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says a High Court ruling that Aboriginal Australians cannot be considered "aliens" under the constitution will be exploited and have "significant repercussions".

This week’s High Court ruling that Aboriginal people cannot be deported under Australia’s constitution represents a “very bad thing” and will be exploited by lawyers, according to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

On Tuesday, the High Court ruled Aboriginal Australians cannot be considered "aliens" under the constitution when it heard the cases of two convicted criminals and non-Australian citizens the government wanted to deport.

The four-three majority decision was a big victory for New Zealand-born Brendan Thoms, though the Court was unable to agree as to whether Papua New Guinea-born Daniel Love is Aboriginal, casting further uncertainty over his case.

On Thursday, Mr Dutton warned the ruling would have “significant repercussions.”

“It essentially creates another class of people, which I think is a very bad thing,” Mr Dutton told Nine Radio.

“Obviously we've got to adhere to the law, and they've interpreted the constitution, but for us, it makes it harder [to deport people].

“There may be other areas, particularly around citizenship, or claims that people can make.

“No doubt, lawyers will try and exploit that.”

Mr Dutton said he is waiting on legal advice as to what the Department of Home Affairs' “options are” to “try and restrict the damage.”

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.
AAP

Soon after making those remarks, Mr Dutton was asked by Nine Radio host Ray Hadley about whether there was a way to legislate around, or "usurp”, the High Court’s decision.

“There might be some points of ambiguity where there is the ability for us to legislate. So the short answer is yes, but only in part,” Mr Dutton said.

“The parliament can’t legislate to overcome that interpretation of, or restrict the use of, the constitution.

“Our hands are tied.”

After Tuesday's ruling, the lawyer acting on behalf of Mr Thoms and Mr Love, Claire Gibbs, said: "This case isn’t about citizenship, it is about who belongs here."

“What this means, and what the real significance of this case is, is that Aboriginal people, regardless of where they are born, will have protection from deportation," she said.

The men are seeking damages for false imprisonment after being placed in immigration detention pending their deportation.

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