Back to All News

Asylum Seekers

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (14:27): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice, Minister Joe Ludwig. Can the government confirm that the Indonesian consulate is currently investigating 40 cases of alleged minors being held in relation to people smuggling in Australian adult jails: 16 cases in Western Australia, two cases in Victoria, 14 in New South Wales, one in the Northern Territory and seven in Queensland? In connection with this, can the government inform the Senate exactly how many minors are being held in Australian adult jails?

Senator LUDWIG (Queensland-Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:28): I thank Senator Hanson-Young for that question. Australia has strong people-smuggling offences that apply to crew of people-smuggling vessels. Arrangements for people-smuggling prosecutions are no different from those for other types of Commonwealth offences. Under our constitutional arrangements, almost all federal offences are tried in state and territory courts and those convicted are sent to prisons in the state or territory in which they are prosecuted. The number of people charged with people-smuggling offences in Australia is a very small proportion of the total number of federal offenders dealt with in state and territory systems and of the people being tried in state and territory courts generally and held in state and territory prisons. Overall, if you look at the comparison, people serving sentences for maritime people smuggling comprise approximately 0.9 per cent-

Senator Hanson-Young: On a point of order, Mr President: the question was clearly whether the government could confirm whether the Indonesian consulate are investigating 40 cases where we are detaining, jailing, children and minors in Australian adult jails. That is the question to the minister.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order. The minister has 57 seconds remaining in which to answer the question.

Senator LUDWIG: In dealing with this, it is, of course, always difficult around age determination, but can I then add that law enforcement authorities investigate all persons suspected of being involved in people smuggling, including minors, and where there is doubt about whether a person arriving in Australia as an irregular maritime arrival is aged over or under 18 years of age and where that person is suspected of committing a Commonwealth offence the Australian Federal Police conducts an age determination process in accordance with the Crimes Act. This is done with the consent of the persons involved. For dealing with minors the government has announced improved processes to provide more certainty in determining the age of individuals detained in Australia suspected of people smuggling. But it is important to keep in mind that the Commonwealth works with the various state and territory governments in ensuring, where the people who are detained and who are convicted of offences are sent to prisons in those states and territories and they are prosecuted- (Time expired)

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (14:31): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the government aware that jailing Indonesian children and minors is a breach of Australia's international treaty obligations? I ask the minister again: is the Indonesian consulate currently investigating 40 cases where Australia is jailing, in adult jails, 40 children from Indonesia? Yes or no, minister?

Senator LUDWIG (Queensland-Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:31): Can I add, as I think we should at least ensure that the record is clear, in terms of prosecution policy in relation to minors, minors are only prosecuted for people-smuggling offences in exceptional circumstances on the basis of their significant involvement in a people-smuggling venture or in multiple ventures. Where the age determination process determines the person, as I indicated earlier, is a minor and there are no exceptional circumstances, that person is returned to their country of origin. If there are exceptional circumstances and the minor is convicted, mandatory minimum penalties do not apply to that person. To date the Commonwealth has not proceeded with prosecutions where the court has determined a defendant is a minor.

Senator Bob Brown: Mr President, on a point of order: at least three times Senator Hanson-Young has asked whether 40 or so minors are subject to an inquiry from Indonesian authorities and said, 'Would he answer that question?' He has only 14 seconds in which to say whether that is the case or not.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order. I am listening closely to the minister's answer. I believe the minister is answering the question. The minister does have 14 seconds remaining in which to answer the question.

Senator LUDWIG: Dealing with broadly the first question and the second question, I will take those on notice and I will ask whether the home affairs minister will provide any additional information given the range of questions that have been asked. (Time expired)

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (14:33): Mr President, I ask a second supplementary question. It relates to the case of Ardi, who is a young 16-year-old boy who spent over a year and a half in custody in an adult jail. He was found to be a minor-and it was not until his lawyer approached the government to have him moved. Has the government engaged in official discussions with the Indonesian government in relation to Ardi's case?

Senator LUDWIG (Queensland-Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:33): In terms of Mr Ardi, on 22 August 2011 the CDPP withdrew all charges against Mr Ardi. Can I indicate, though, as to whether there is any additional information that the minister can provide, that I will ask the home affairs minister to add it if he is able to. It always is difficult, when we are dealing with matters that have been before courts or are before courts, to provide sufficient information to satisfy the questioner. It is an area where the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions does take into account how the age determination process is dealt with through the AFP. But all of those matters are subject to careful examination by the CDPP and the Australian Federal Police. They take all care to ensure that appropriate outcomes are provided for. (Time expired)

 

Back to All News