Government rushes new legislation to respond to High Court case

Legislation being rushed through Parliament contradicted the Federal Government’s claims that its actions running and funding offshore detention centres are legal, the Human Rights Law Centre said today. The legislative changes are being brought in response to a High Court case the HRLC commenced in relation to the Nauru facility and Stacks Goudkamp Lawyers commenced in relation the Manus Island facility.

 “The Government repeatedly assures the Australian people it is acting legally. A Government confident its actions are lawful doesn’t suddenly change the law when its actions are challenged in court,” said the HRLC’s Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb.

“People affected by this case include newborn babies, people with serious medical issues, women who report being sexually assaulted on Nauru and men badly injured in the violence on Manus Island. They have suffered great hardship at the hands of successive Australian governments. They deserve to have the lawfulness of their treatment considered by our courts, not have the government shift the goalposts mid-case,” said Mr Webb.

The HRLC commenced the case on 14 May this year on behalf of a group of asylum seekers and their families. The case raises important and untested questions about the current offshore detention arrangements.

“Our case asks whether Government has the necessary legal authority run offshore detention centres and to spend billions of taxpayer dollars that purpose,” said Mr Webb.

“We need to look at the detail of the legislation. Given what we know about the current dangers facing vulnerable people locked up offshore, now is not the time to be hastily giving the government broad powers to lock up innocent people in other countries or to write blank cheques with our money for that purpose,” said Mr Webb.

 “All governments should observe and respect limits on their power, not hastily remove them,” said Mr Webb.

The hearing date for the case has not yet been set. It will not be heard before September.

The legal team running the case includes barristers Ron Merkel QC, Craig Lenehan, David Hume, Rachel Mansted and Stacks Goudkamp. Assistance has also been provided by the Refugee Advice and Casework Service and Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network.

For further information contact: Daniel Webb, Human Rights Law Centre Director of Legal Advocacy on 0437 278 961 or