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Greens to introduce bill to amend ASIO Act and restore basic procedural fairness to refugees

The Australian Greens will today give notice they will introduce a bill to amend the ASIO Act, thereby restoring basic procedural fairness to refugees who are detained indefinitely because of the agency's powers.

"We're taking this action in the Senate because regardless of the decision of the High Court challenge which gets underway today, the law will have to be changed," Greens' immigration spokesperson, Sen. Sarah Hanson-Young, said.

"Our bill is aimed at helping some 60 refugee men, women and children, including pregnant young mother Ranjini and her two young boys who are in Villawood indefinitely.

"Australian immigration authorities have locked these fragile people up, potentially forever, and won't say why ASIO has made adverse security assessments against them.

"These extreme measures are shattering families and means some children have never been outside a detention facility. We cannot be the land of the fair go by letting these practices continue.

"There are four things my bill will do to restore basic procedural fairness, including letting refugees and their lawyers access and respond to ASIO's statement of reasons for the assessment.

"The Greens' bill also allows the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to hold merits reviews of ASIO's decision to make an adverse assessment. Seeing the statement of reasons and being able to have merits review brings the rights of non-citizens into line with the rights of Australian citizens.

"The Bill follows the practice of other countries, such as the UK and New Zealand, in establishing a security-cleared Special Advocate who can be provided with sensitive information in the tribunal review hearing in place of the affected person.

"Also in the bill are provisions for requiring periodic six-month reviews of ASIO assessments by ASIO, so that new country information and updated facts are taken into consideration. We know that, to date, ASIO has only ever revisited one case even though circumstances do change and families are spending months and years of their lives in immigration detention.

"The Greens' bill encapsulates many of the recommendations from the recent parliamentary inquiry into the immigration detention network which argued unequivocally that the ASIO Act needs urgent reform."

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