A Senate inquiry has today heard Australia keeps detaining Indonesian children contrary to international obligations, with one imprisoned for 735 days before being released after authorities conceded they were a child.
"I'm outraged some Indonesian children have languished in Australian detention centres and prisons for at least a year because authorities didn't believe they were children, and didn't go to Indonesia to find out," Greens' immigration spokesperson, Sarah Hanson-Young, said.
"Surely the price of flying our Jakarta-based AFP officers to remote Indonesian fishing villages to verify children's identities is far more ethical and cost-effective than locking up these children for months and years on end?
"The inquiry into my Crimes Amendment (Fairness for Minors) Bill also heard Australia has breached the Convention on the Rights of the Child by denying them legal representation. Australians would be rightly appalled if an Australian child in an overseas prison was denied timely legal advice, as we are doing to Indonesian children.
"The Greens' bill intends to change the law to put the onus on Australian authorities to prove that someone is an adult and scraps the use of discredited wrist x-ray techniques to determine age.
"The Law Council of Australia has today strongly backed my complementary Migration Amendment (Removal of Mandatory Minimum Penalties) Bill which abolishes the mandatory five-year jail terms for people convicted of being crew of asylum seeker boats. The council told the inquiry the rising rate of acquittals of such people comes as Australian juries learn how insignificant the accused are in people smuggling syndicates.
"Every submission received and witness who testified today, bar the government and its agencies, backs the Greens' two bills. The Migration Act must be changed because it is unfairly punishing people, including children, who are the bottom of the people smuggling chain and not those at the top.
"We have to amend laws which are not deterring people and are treating crew members as disposable as the wooden boats which reach our shores."
Audio from Sarah's Canberra doorstop into her two bills on removing Indonesian children from detention and abolishing mandatory sentences.