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People smuggling bill misleads Australian public

The government's hastily-drafted Deterring People Smuggling Bill 2011 misleads Australians because it does nothing to disrupt smuggling or stop the trade's kingpins from exploiting asylum seekers and poor Indonesian fishermen, the Australian Greens said today.

"This Bill, and the Commonwealth charges it seeks to amend, fails to address the fact the people smuggling organisers deem the Indonesian crew as expendable as the leaky boats," Greens' immigration spokesperson, Sen. Sarah Hanson-Young, said today.

"It's not just poor Indonesian fishermen who are being misled, it's the Australian people.

"The bill would mean boat crews continue to be punished by blunt and severe mandatory sentences of five years' jail while the real offenders escape. Worse, it doesn't fix the problem of around 30 Indonesia children languishing in adult Australian prisons while their age determination process drags on.

"Lawyers told the hearing today most crew members are duped onto the boats with promises of fishing work while the true smugglers - the organisers - escape safely back to Indonesia.

"Numerous legal experts told the inquiry the retrospective nature of the bill would set a devastating precedent under the rule of law, could be contrary to the Constitution, and could expose the government to more litigation and international censure.

"This bill is designed to scuttle a Court of Appeal case underway in Victoria.

"The government should respect the separation of powers by leaving the judiciary to do its job, instead of trying to interfere to save political face."


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