A complex political situation with lots of name-calling from the government and hubris from the opposition has developed after the High Court decided on indefinite detention. A microscopic focus on the subsequent actions by the federal government has left the opposition somewhat off the hook regarding the reasons behind the high court decision.
The broader context of national security has always been a strong point for the Coalition, but that's more about how it has bragged, blustered and then concealed things rather than actual evidence. Anyone who believes the Liberal Party has a clean sheet with asylum seekers, indefinite detention, and national security is fooling themselves.
It's not uncommon for political parties to criticise each other for policies, decisions, or actions taken in the past. Still, the current government's claims the challenges they are facing are down to decisions made by Peter Dutton during his tenure as Immigration Minister are rooted in fact.
The High Court's decision answered the question of the legality of indefinite detention laws put in place by the Liberal Party when they were in government. The Labor government's efforts to pass new legislation addressing the High Court decision have led to disagreements on various proposed laws. Additionally, there are accusations and demands for apologies related to claims made against Peter Dutton in the context of protecting children and national security. It's not uncommon for political figures to face criticism or demands for apologies in the course of public debates. But Mr Dutton looks keen to dish out insults and accusations, but when they fly back at him, he develops a sensitivity likened to a glass jaw. Some say he can give it but can't take it to use the old schoolyard taunt.
The case which started this antagonism involved a Rohingya man known as NZYQ. NZYQ arrived in Australia by boat in September 2012 when Julia Gillard was Prime Minister. Two years later, the Liberal government and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton gave him a bridging visa to stay. Months later, NZYQ would be arrested and charged with raping a 10-year-old boy, prompting the government to strip him of his visa. NZYQ pled guilty and was sentenced to five years in jail. When he was released on parole in May 2018, after three years and four months in prison, he was immediately detained in immigration detention. His case has borne out the complexities surrounding immigration policies and the legal limitations the government faces.
The High Court's decision marks a significant shift in legal precedent and emphasises the need for a lawful policy to address such situations. It's a nuanced issue, as the government seeks to balance the protection of public safety with legal and humanitarian considerations. The Coalition seeking to score political points was predictable and typical, but it had some gall in doing so.
Indefinite immigration detention was a Liberal Party policy; that is a fact. Of course, this current messy situation could have been avoided if the court had shown some restraint and waited to announce its decision so the ruling and reasons could be announced together.
The Labor Party told Peter Dutton in a debate that there was a high risk they would be unconstitutional when these laws were legislated. Mr Dutton decided not to listen. "Ultimately, what Peter Dutton did was incompetent. Peter Dutton was told the risk and decided to roll the dice on national security anyway," Labor's Tony Burke said.
The Albanese government's claim they are "cleaning up the mess" left by Dutton is valid.
The High Court's reasons for its ruling are now known, so the government has guidelines to devise a lawful policy to deal with people they want to deport but can't. It should get all the advice it needs, try its best to cancel all the noise from the opposition and develop a watertight policy that can never be challenged again. Then, in 2024, it can focus on helping Australians deal with the mounting cost of living pressures we are facing. That's something I am sure we can all agree on.
Craig Thomson is the editor of The Launceston Examiner.