If the Coalition gains outright control of the Senate from 1 July 2005, only public pressure can stop the Government passing immigration legislation to further reduce the rights of asylum seekers, including restricting rights of appeal and excluding Australian islands from Australian migration law.
The Government was twice stopped by the Senate from being able to declare around 4,000 islands to be outside the migration zone, at the whim of the Immigration Minister.
Democrats Leader Senator Andrew Bartlett described the Migration Legislation Amendment (Further Border Protection Measures) Bill as "legal games with geography in order to ensure people who are fleeing persecution and seeking safety would have fewer legal rights than anybody else"
"On July 1st there may not be the numbers in the Senate to stop the Government doing anything, so refugee advocates need to continue to maintain community pressure to ensure the Government not to make life even harder for refugees and asylum seekers."
Another Bill the Government may bring back would further restrict rights of appeal of anyone who disagreed with a migration decision. Senator Bartlett, who was on the committee that originally examined the Migration Legislation (Judicial Review) Bill 2004, said "There is at least a 7.5% error rate in the review level provided by the Refugee Review Tribunal, and even higher if we include cases where the Government backs down or where the applicant does not proceed with their cases.
"Considering the potentially fatal outcomes for refugees if the Australian system gets it wrong, we should not be removing rights of appeal when there is around a 10% error rate on original rulings.
"Those recent improvements in conditions for refugees and asylum seekers that have been achieved were a result of public pressure on the Government. If the Coalition controls the Senate outright, the work of refugee advocacy groups like Rural Australians for Refugees, A Just Australia, ChilOut and the various Refugee Action Collectives will be even more important.
"Improving public awareness about the continuing suffering of refugees has been very effective in the last three years. With a weaker Senate, community pressure is the only way to reduce the suffering," Senator Bartlett concluded.