This background note provides a snap-shot of significant developments in refugee law and policy during the period September 2010 to the end of December 2011.
On 14 September 2010, Julia Gillard was re-sworn in as Australia’s 27th Prime Minister following the 21 August 2010 federal election. When the Australian Labor Party (ALP) commenced its second term in office it did so amidst increasing numbers of asylum seekers arriving by boat (also known as irregular maritime arrivals (IMAs)), increasing levels of unrest in its existing immigration detention network, and a looming High Court challenge to its proposed offshore processing regime.
By the end of 2011, Australia’s immigration detention network had been significantly expanded; the alternative processing regime used for IMAs had effectively been abandoned; plans to enliven third-country processing in the region had been put on hold following a successful High Court challenge and subsequent political impasse; increasing numbers of convicted people smuggling crews had been incarcerated; onshore processing for all asylum seekers had begun; and the Government had decided that eligible IMAs could have their asylum claims assessed while they resided in the community on bridging visas—putting them on the same footing as most other onshore asylum seekers.
However, amidst this flux, some things remained the same, for example, Australia’s refugee and humanitarian intake quota, retention of the policy of mandatory detention and excision under the Migration Act, and the steady flow of asylum seekers arriving by boat to seek Australia’s protection. Sadly, the injury and deaths of asylum seekers attempting to arrive by sea and in immigration detention centres also continued to feature throughout the year.
This Background Note provides a snap-shot of significant developments in refugee law and policy during the period September 2010 to the end of December 2011. In doing so, it builds upon a previous Parliamentary Library publication entitled Developments in Australian refugee law and policy 2007–10: Labor’s first term in office. Part I provides a chronology of significant events which includes a section dedicated to commentary provided by former politicians, bureaucrats, and prominent Australians. Part II traces each Bill that was introduced by the ALP as well as privately proposed Bills by the Australian Greens. Part III examines parliamentary inquiries on refugee matters conducted during the period, while Part IV contains a brief overview of two significant High Court judgments—the offshore processing test case and the challenge to the Government’s ‘Malaysia arrangement’.