Good order bill would see people in detention more vulnerable

The government continues to introduce harsh policies for people seeking asylum with its introduction of the Good Order Bill, giving officers unprecedented powers.

The Good Order of Immigration Detention Facilities Bill 2015 seeks to ensure ‘good order’ in detention centres by permitting authorised officers to use ‘reasonable force’ against any person or thing with impunity. The report into this proposed legislation is to be tabled is set to be tabled on May 12, 2015.

Should the Bill be passed, an authorised officer will be able to use reasonable force against any person where the officer believes necessary to protect the life, health or safety of any person or to maintain good order, peace or security in a facility. Reasonable force may be deemed necessary to protect persons from harm from others or from self-harm, to prevent detainees from escaping, to prevent the damage or destruction of property and to move detainees within a facility.

“These amendments to the Migration Act will, in effect, result in guards being authorised to beat asylum seekers in detention to death.” – The Hon Stephen Charles QC, former Victorian Supreme Court judge, 16 April 2015

This Bill is particularly concerning as officers are unable to be held accountable for their actions in the court. If there is a complaint about the use of force, it is heard by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection who not only hire the offending officer (creating a conflict of interest) but also are under no obligation to respond.

The Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes NSW highlights, there is much ambiguity and potential harm that could arise should this Bill be passed. The terms ‘good order’ and ‘reasonable force’ are vague and could see unnecessary physical force and violence arise. The separation of the Bill from the legal system is a denial of fundamental human rights, and is a failure of Australia to fulfil its responsibility to ensure the rights and freedoms of people seeking protection.

As Catholics, we recognises the importance of offering refuge, compassion and care to those who are seeking asylum, rather than the control, order and behaviour that is too often focussed on.

For the Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes NSW comments on the Bill, see here.

To email your Senator opposing this Bill, see here