Scott Morrison now has the numbers to reintroduce temporary visas and create a fast-track assessment process that will leave asylum seekers without the right of review, after striking a deal with Clive Palmer.

Morrison’s bill is designed to clear the backlog of asylum seekers being held on Christmas Island and elsewhere in Australia. It doesn’t apply to asylum seekers being “processed” (read: arbitrarily detained) offshore on Manus Island and Nauru, or anyone arriving by boat in future.

The bill also removes most references to the United Nations Refugee Convention from the Migration Act.

“This Parliament should decide what our obligations are under these conventions,” Morrison told Parliament in introducing the bill this morning. “We’re not going to hand that off to advocates and others around the world.”

(Think “we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”.)

Asylum seekers will have a harder time proving they have a “well-founded fear of persecution” under the new system as the threshold for protection is raised.

In a bizarre press conference explaining his backing of the bill this morning, Palmer said the new deal was a game changer for Australia because it would allow regional employers to source labour more easily, through a new visa known as the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa. “These visa holders will be targeted to regions and encouraged to fill regional vacancies,” he said.

But without the right of review, and with a tighter conditions for what constitutes a refugee, it’s likely that many of the 30,000 people currently eligible for the visa will in fact be sent home — something that Morrison indicated in his own press conference this morning.

Palmer is either playing wilfully ignorant or he’s been sold a pup. No amount of silver lining will make this deal anything other than a rubber stamp to the Coalition’s increasingly arbitrary war on asylum seekers.

Peter Fray

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