Labor, Greens clash with Morrison government over asylum seekers fast track

Labor Senator Kristina Keneally (left) and Greens Senator Nick McKim (right). Source: AAP

Labor and the Greens are pushing to scrap the fast tracking of asylum seekers as the Morrison government attempts to expand the policy.

A push to block the federal government expanding its fast tracking of asylum seekers is being waged by the Greens with Labor’s support.

The Coalition the processing scheme in place in 2015, aimed at resolving at least 30,500 asylum seekers' visa applications regarded as a so-called “legacy caseload”.

But this year it has attempted to enhance the measures for those who make subsequent temporary protection or safe haven visa applications considered through this process.

To reverse this step, Greens Senator Nick McKim is leading a disallowance motion that would mean around 4,000 boat arrivals would no longer be considered as fast track applicants.

Greens Senator Nick McKim.
Greens Senator Nick McKim.

He has condemned the review pathway as "neither fast nor fair", calling for it to be scrapped for undermining asylum seekers' rights to appeal.

“It matters because the Government continues to not only demonise people who have fled persecution it continues to deny them crucial legal rights," he told SBS News.

"It was set up with the clear aim of reducing people chances of claiming asylum"

Greens Senator Nick McKim.
Greens Senator Nick McKim.

Under the fast track process, asylum seekers the Department of Home Affairs deems do not engage with Australia’s protection obligations are referred to what's known as the Immigration Assessment Authority.

This means these visa applicants have their cases resolved there, rather than going before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which the government says would delay their review.

Immigration Minister David Coleman has defended the approach, criticising the disallowance motion for threatening to further strain immigration backlogs.

“Once again Labor and the Greens have teamed up to vote against a key border security policy,” he said.

“This should not come as a surprise – every time the government puts forward legislation to support our border security, Labor will frustrate and oppose.”

Regional Visa
Minister for Immigration David Coleman

The Morrison government cited the Immigration Assessment Authority deals with cases on average from referral to a decision in 23 days compared to 504 days for the AAT.

 "They want to further delay the processing of thousands of people who came here illegally on their watch," Mr Coleman said.

The fast track process had applied to asylum seekers who came by boat after 13 August 2012, which are not allowed to apply for permanent visas.

But additional steps have meant that those who applied before this date, and make subsequent temporary protection or safe haven visa applications, also have their cases assessed through this pathway.

If successful the disallowance motion would reverse these measures, meaning those asylum seekers would no longer have their cases reviewed through the fast track process.

High Court Justice Ian Callinan has previously called the review pathway an "effective and fair decision-maker", despite it being accused of limiting asylum seekers' rights to appeal.

Greens Senator Nick McKim condemning the measures as an unfair attack on asylum seekers' rights.

“This has no impact at all on border security … but what it does do is have an impact on people who are an extremely vulnerable group,” he said.

"It should be scrapped altogether not expanded." 

Labor Senator Kristina Keneally.
Labor Senator Kristina Keneally.

Labor’s Home Affairs spokesperson Kristina Keneally has backed the Greens concerns over the fast-tracking process. 

“Labor does not support the fast track process because it is neither fast nor fair,” a spokesperson for the senator's office said.

“If it was the third term Liberal Government would have been able to process these applications by now."

The party will support the disallowance motion, leaving the crossbench to decide its fate, however, it has been delayed in the Senate - and is now expected to go ahead next sitting week 

With AAP

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