Peter Dutton has warned another 340 detainees could soon be walking the streets following a controversial High Court decision which deemed indefinite detention illegal.
The Opposition leader has been critical of the government for not imposing tough legislation to bypass the ruling, which has already seen 84 asylum seekers – some of whom are ‘hardened criminals’ – walk free.
The government stridently opposed the High Court decision and has introduced legislation which will impose tough restrictions on all the detainees who were released in the wake of the ruling.
Initially, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said it was a decision which ‘only applies to one person’.
That number has since ballooned, with 84 released in the six days since the ruling was handed down and another eight expected to be released shortly.
But Mr Dutton today warned the number could actually be far greater.
In a speech in the House of Representatives, Mr Dutton said: ‘Not just are we talking about the 84 out now and the eight about to be released, we’re now talking about a pipeline of 340 people and potentially more beyond that.
‘Potentially more beyond that,’ he reiterated.
Mr Dutton declined to go into too much detail about the offenders who could potentially soon be free, but he revealed that he was the minister who decided to keep many of them in detention ‘on multiple occasions’.
‘I can tell you that these people have offended against multiple Australians,’ he said.
‘We’re not talking about some people who have had some indiscretion under the law.
‘These are people who have committed serious offences and the likelihood of them re-offending is very, very high.’
During Question Time on Thursday, led by Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles while PM Anthony Albanese attends APEC in San Francisco, Immigration Minister Andrew Giles was peppered with tough questions about the fiasco.
One question in particular called on Mr Giles to confirm whether he has offered any assistance to a rape victim who said she ‘immediately began crying, and felt a numbness’ when she learned her rapist had been freed after the High Court decision.
Mr Giles said: ‘The thoughts of every member in this place go out to that victim and with all victims who may be affected by these issues.
‘Of course, I cannot comment on individual cases.’
Mr Dutton followed up with a question of his own to Mr Marles, asking whether the government will make an effort to ‘contact each of the victims of these 84 individuals and, in the case where the victim is deceased, the victim’s family’.
Mr Marles said Labor would ‘make our best efforts to communicate with the families of victims, not only around the circumstances of the release, but the steps the government is now taking in accordance with legislation’.
This legislation will move laws imposing strict conditions such as ankle-tracking devices and curfews on the former detainees.
The legislation passed the House this morning and the Senate is expected to sit late to get it through, however proposed amendments could see this delayed until late tonight.
Greens immigration spokesman Nick McKim said the ‘draconian laws’ would provide the minister with powers never before seen in Australia.
‘It is an utter disgrace, an abject craven capitulation by a party (Labor) that has forgotten where it has come from, and forgotten what it used to stand for,’ he said.
The laws would create a two-tiered justice system for some migrants and refugees in comparison with Australians, he said.
The immigration minister said the measures such as electronic monitoring and curfews would not apply to all of the former detainees and assessments would be carried out to identify those at the greatest risk of reoffending.
‘These measures are consistent with the legitimate objective of community safety and the rights and interests of the public,’ Mr Giles said.
New visa requirements for the released detainees will force them to notify the government on a change of address, or any association with clubs or organisations or individuals involved in illegal activity.
Each breach of the new visa conditions would carry with it a maximum penalty of five years in prison.