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In June 2012 the Australian Parliament was in deadlock over the legislative solution for dealing with the rising increase in asylum seekers. The matter has become critical because asylum seekers are risking their lives on the dangerous boat journeys to Australia. From 2001 to June 2012, 964 asylum seekers and crew have been lost at sea on boats carrying asylum seekers. Of this number, 604 people have lost their lives since October 2009. On 28 June, as a result of

the parliamentary deadlock, the Prime Minister, Hon. Julia Gillard, MP, established an Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers, comprising Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston AC, AFC (Ret’d), Professor Michael L’Estrange AO and Mr Paris Aristotle to develop a way forward that would address the challenges that Australia faced over the short, medium and longer term. On 13 August the Expert Panel

released its report containing 22 recommendations. Air Chief Marshall Houston said that the “panel believed the prospect of further losses of life at sea was one that demanded urgent and decisive action on the part of the Australian Government”. Some of the key proposals of the panel included recommending that Australia’s humanitarian programme be immediately increased to 20 000 places per year; that bilateral cooperation on asylum seeker issues with Indonesia be advanced; that Australia continue to develop its

224 | The Parliamentarian | 2012: Issue Three

vitally important cooperation with Malaysia on asylum issues; that a capacity be established in Nauru as soon as practical to process the claims of irregular maritime arrivals (IMAs); and that a capacity by established in Papua New Guinea (PNG) as soon as possible to process the claims of IMAs. In addition, the panel proposed that a ‘no advantage’ principle should apply whereby irregular migrants gain no benefit by choosing to circumvent regular migration mechanisms. In order to support

regional processing, the panel recommended that legislation to support the transfer of people to regional processing arrangements be introduced in the Australian Parliament as a matter of urgency. The panel stated that “this legislation should require that any further designation of a country as an appropriate place for processing be achieved through a further legislative instrument that would provide the opportunity for the Australian Parliament to allow or disallow the instrument”. Upon the release of the report,

the Prime Minister indicated that the government “has determined to endorse in principle, all of the recommendations of Angus Houston’s report”. In particular, Ms Gillard indicated that the government would introduce amendments to its current Bill before the Parliament. Ms Gillard stated that “those amendments will be to enable us to commence processing arrangements on

Nauru and on PNG. They will be amendments in the form recommended by Angus Houston. That is, amendments that enable the Parliament to make a determination about each country that becomes part of an offshore processing arrangement”. Ms Gillard stated that “I am

prepared to further compromise from the government’s position in order to get things done. When our nation looks at what’s happening at sea as people attempt dangerous journeys to Australia, too many lives have been lost. And I’m not going to play politics or look at political scoreboards when too many lives have been lost”. On 14 August the Minister

for Immigration and Citizenship, Hon. Chris Bowen, MP, advised the House of Representatives that the government would introduce amendments as foreshadowed by the Prime Minister. Mr Bowen indicated that he had discussed the opposition’s concerns with the Shadow Minister for Immigration, Mr Scott Morrison, MP, that “a legislative instrument should be prospective as well as retrospective and that there should be accountability in instances where a legislative instrument is tabled or prepared in circumstances where the House is not sitting or where the House is not able to consider the matter before the instrument is acted upon”. Mr Bowen advised that he and Mr Morrison had agreed on the amendment and

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