Protection from human rights abuses needs a better safeguard than Ministerial discretion

When it comes to protecting people from serious human rights violations, we need a better system than one depending entirely on non-reviewable decisions made by the Immigration Minister, the HRLC has said in a submission to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee.

The Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into proposed amendments to the Migration Act which would repeal the ‘complementary protection’ provisions.

HRLC Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb explained that while the Refugee Convention protects people who have a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group, the complementary protection provisions protect people fleeing similar harm but for reasons covered by other international law treaties.  

“Since coming into force in March 2012, the complementary protection provisions have protected 57 people facing harm due to the risk of honour killings, domestic violence, revenge attacks and blood feuds” said Mr Webb.

“They’ve protected a Pakistani women from the risk of being killed by her family for refusing an arranged marriage to her first cousin. They’ve protected a Nigerian man who witnessed a murder by the Nigerian military and had been intimidated, threatened and mistreated by the perpetrators in order to maintain his silence. The Government is seeking to repeal these life saving protections”, said Mr Webb.

By repealing the complementary protection provisions, the Bill would make the protection of such people contingent on the personal, non-compellable and non-reviewable discretion of the Immigration Minister.

“A system of protection entirely dependent on one politician’s personal and non-reviewable discretion, exercised behind closed doors, is not one people in danger can have any confidence in”, said Mr Webb.

The HRLC’s submission sets out its concerns that:

  1. a personal, non-compellable Ministerial discretion is an insufficient safeguard against returning people to significant harm;
  2. the non-reviewability of the Minister’s discretion means that there will be no process in place to correct incorrect decisions and to prevent people being wrongfully returned to harm;
  3. the complementary protection provisions were only recently introduced in response to widespread acknowledgement of the problems with a system entirely contingent upon discretionary Executive power. The Bill repeals the solution.

The HRLC recommended the retention of the complementary protection provisions.

A copy of the HRLC’s submission can be found here.


For further information contact:
Daniel Webb on 0437 278 961 or via