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Huge blow to Anthony Albanese’s Trump-style travel ban on tourists coming from FIVE countries – as minister fumes and claims emerge of public servant rushing from her office in tears

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Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil has slammed the Coalition for delaying a detainee law that the government has tried to rush through parliament this week.

The proposed laws would ban visitors from several foreign countries, including Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Iran, Iraq and Russia, in a bid to force their governments to take back citizens who seek asylum in Australia but are rejected.

Ms O’Neil was visibly angry on Wednesday as she held a press conference hours after the Coalition sided with the Greens in the Senate to delay the passage of this bill.

‘We’re very disappointed the Liberals have stymied our efforts. The reason that we need it is we seek to run an orderly migration system in this country,’ she said.

‘Because of 10 years of wilful neglect, we have an immigration system that… is fundamentally broken.’

Ms O’Neil accused the Coalition of ‘playing politics’ with the matter. 

Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil has slammed the Coalition for delaying a detainee law that the government has tried to rush through parliament this week

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil has slammed the Coalition for delaying a detainee law that the government has tried to rush through parliament this week

Tourists from at least five countries could be banned from travelling to Australia if Labor's tough new proposed migration laws pass Parliament. It's possible more would follow

Tourists from at least five countries could be banned from travelling to Australia if Labor’s tough new proposed migration laws pass Parliament. It’s possible more would follow

While Labor had hoped to push the bill through by Wednesday afternoon, the Coalition pushed for an in-depth Senate inquiry into potential ramifications, meaning it won’t be dealt with until at least May, when parliament returns from the Easter break. 

It comes on the same day allegations were made that a senior public servant was seen leaving Ms O’Neil’s office earlier this year in tears, after a separate development related to the NZYQ case.

In that matter, Sky News revealed that Home Affairs Secretary Stephanie Foster was summoned to Ms O’Neil’s office following a Senate hearing back in February in which she tabled a document detailing ex-detainees’ criminal records.

These detainees were among the cohort released after the controversial NZYQ High Court decision.

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According to Sky, Ms Foster was subjected to a ‘robust discussion’ about her decision to release those documents when she did, and that she was seen leaving Ms O’Neil’s office ‘visibly upset after the Minister tore strips off her’.

In the document she released, it was revealed seven of the 149 people released into the community had murder or attempted murder convictions, 37 were sexually based offenders and 72 were violent offenders with kidnapping or assault charges.

A further 16 were convicted of domestic violence or stalking, while 13 had serious drug offences on their rap sheets.

Both Ms O’Neil and Immigration Minister Andrew Giles were reportedly ‘furious’ with Ms Foster over the release of the document.

Both Ms O'Neil and Immigration Minister Andrew Giles held a press conference to air their disappointment on Wednesday

Both Ms O’Neil and Immigration Minister Andrew Giles held a press conference to air their disappointment on Wednesday

Ms O'Neil was visibly angry on Wednesday as she held a press conference hours after the Coalition sided with the Greens in the Senate to delay the passage of the bill

Ms O’Neil was visibly angry on Wednesday as she held a press conference hours after the Coalition sided with the Greens in the Senate to delay the passage of the bill

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the duo had hoped Ms Foster would provide verbal answers to the questions in the afternoon session of the February 12 inquiry.

Instead, the document was tabled in the morning, giving the Coalition further ammunition and sparking mass headlines across the media.

Ms Foster appeared before another Senate inquiry on Tuesday night, this time discussing Labor’s attempts to jam new immigration legislation through parliament.

Home Affairs general counsel Clare Sharp was asked whether the new proposed laws, which would effectively ban tourists from up to five nations, was driven by an upcoming High Court challenge which, if successful, could see hordes more asylum seekers freed.

Ms Sharpe said the potential outcome was not driving this new legislation, but conceded this bill would directly relate to the same cohort of people impacted by the decision.

But Ms Foster clarified ‘if the bill were passed and the case were unsuccessful, it would give us an additional tool to deal with people protected by that’.

While Ms O’Neil was not asked about the allegations during her press conference, she avoided discussing the altercation repeatedly during Question Time.

Asked first whether the altercation took place, and then again if she apologised, Ms O’Neil said: ‘I work very closely with the secretary of my department.’ 

Greens Senator David Shoebridge was also asked about the incident and said he ‘has never seen the consistent pressure on public servants to not tell the truth… to hide the truth from Parliament’ during his time in federal politics.

‘There is a substantial cultural problem in this place where the government thinks it can intimidate and silence senior public servants and prevent the parliament, and through us the public, getting the evidence they need.

‘Lets hope this is a lesson,’ he said. 

It comes on the same day allegations were made that a senior public servant, Home Affairs Secretary Stephanie Foster (pictured), was seen leaving Ms O'Neil's office earlier this year in tears

It comes on the same day allegations were made that a senior public servant, Home Affairs Secretary Stephanie Foster (pictured), was seen leaving Ms O’Neil’s office earlier this year in tears

The legislation proposed by two of Mr Albanese’s ministers would give the Immigration Minister the power to single out countries that do not cooperate with Australia’s attempts to deport people back to their country of origin.

That could result in citizens of Iran, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Russia and South Sudan being banned from travelling to Australia altogether, even for a holiday – although some exceptions would apply.

The government fears that an upcoming High Court hearing, set down for April 17, could lead to the court expanding further on its controversial NZYQ decision, leading to up to 170 further detainees walking free.

The new High Court case relates to an Iranian citizen known as ASF17, who refuses to go back to Iran because as a bisexual man he could face the death penalty. 

Labor’s proposed laws would also introduce a jail sentence of up to five years for failed asylum seekers who refuse to cooperate with their deportation.

But the bill will not pass without a fight, with the Coalition teaming up with the Greens in the Senate on Wednesday morning to refer the proposal to a formal Senate inquiry.

This could take months. 

Greens Senator David Shoebridge proposed the inquiry report come back in June, but Coalition Home Affairs spokesperson James Paterson said earlier in the day they intend to have a report finalised before parliament returns in mid-May.

Mr Paterson said if the government could prove the urgent need for the passage of this legislation, the Coalition would be prepared to return to parliament in April to reconsider the matter.

‘In the absence of a genuine, demonstrable urgent need… our intention is for it to go through due process,’ Mr Paterson said. 

Your questions about the ‘Trump style-travel ban’, explained 

How would the new ‘tourist ban’ work? 

The proposed ‘tourist ban’ will only apply to nations which do not accept involuntary deportations. 

The government hopes that the threat alone of banning entry to Australia will be enough to encourage co-operation from these nations.

Officials hope the law will give them leverage over the countries, so Australia can deport citizens who have no genuine claim to enter Australia.

One such example is the case which will appear in the High Court next month. 

An Iranian man is refusing to cooperate with efforts to deport him because he is bisexual, and could face the death penalty if he returns home.

Iran does not accept citizens returning without their consent. 

What was Donald Trump’s travel ban, that the laws are being compared with?

Back in 2017, then-US President Donald Trump introduced a travel ban which prohibited entry to the United States to most citizens of Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. He later added North Korea and Venezuela to the list. 

President Joe Biden revoked the ban when he took office. 

If re-elected, Mr Trump has vowed to reinstate it, and extend it to include people from Gaza

Why will the Albanese government’s new laws take time to pass parliament? 

Labor was relying on support for the Coalition to ensure this bill passed parliament this week.

The Greens are opposed to tougher detention policies and instantly expressed disdain for the bill. The crossbench in the House has also voted against it. Human rights groups have also denounced the proposal as inhumane.

While the Coalition isn’t necessarily opposed to the contents of the bill, they have argued they didn’t get enough time to examine the proposal, given they were only briefed on Tuesday morning during an already shortened parliamentary sitting week.

Opposition Home Affairs spokesman James Paterson said his party operated in ‘good faith’ on Tuesday by passing the bill through the House in order to examine it further during a hastily arranged Senate hearing, but claimed on Wednesday their questions were not appropriately answered.

So now the party has teamed up with the Greens to force the bill to be put before a Senate inquiry, which means there’s no possible way it can pass Parliament on Wednesday, as Labor had hoped.

The Coalition has left the door open to return to Parliament during the break to debate the matter, but only if Labor proves there’s a genuine, urgent need for the laws.

Labor has tried to argue the legislation is simply about closing a newly identified loophole, and have not tried to link this bill to the High Court case taking place on April 17.

In order to get the bill passed before that case, the Coalition may be hoping they’ll concede that the two matters are related. 



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