Protesters say Labor’s bill will give minister ‘Trump-like’ anti-refugee powers

May 14, 2024
Refugees and supporters protest on May 11. Photo: Peter Boyle

New South Wales Greens Senator David Shoebridge told a “Kill The Bill” protest at Sydney Town Hall on May 11 that Labor’s deportation and entry ban bill would give the immigration minister “god-like powers”.

He said the minister could issue directions to people on bridging visas, backed by criminal sanctions, detain asylum seekers indefinitely without trial and ban travel from countries from where people are seeking asylum.

When former United States President Donald Trump imposed travel bans on several Muslim-majority countries he was met with global outrage, said Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition. Labor’s bill will give the minister the powers to do the same, he said.

Abishek Selvakumar, a young Tamil asylum seeker denied permanent protection, told the rally that up to 12,000 people in his situation were already facing severe discrimination and hardship and the new bill would make their lives even harder.

“We don’t need more punitive bills. We need policies that welcome asylum seekers and policies that ensure that the asylum seekers here get the permanent visas they deserve,” Selvakumar said.

Shoebridge added that the latest High Court decision affirmed that Labor can continue to hold people indefinitely in what is termed “administrative detention” if they are deemed to be “not cooperating in their own deportation to a country from where they have fled persecution”.

“Labor fought for this decision in the High Court and, tragically, the court said yes they could do that. What kind of government fights for that?

“They called it a ‘victory’! Shame on them!”

Shoebridge warned that history has shown that “whenever Labor shifts to the right like this, the Coalition goes one step further”.

Similar rallies were held in other major cities, indicating the refugee rights movement’s determination to kill this bill.


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