Removing Australia from the Refugee Convention?

It wasn't expected until next week, but now we're hearing Scott Morrison's migration bill could be put to a vote in the Senate as early as today.

Here's what we know: the Coalition will vote together in favour of the bill. This is despite the Parliament's own Human Rights Committee, chaired by a Liberal Senator, finding the bill breached Australia's human rights commitments.1 Labor have said they will oppose the bill in its current form, as have the Greens, who will oppose the bill in its entirety.

But Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has been working hard to shore up support for his despotic bill, and he's focusing all his efforts on the crossbench senators, since they will have the deciding vote. This is why the crossbench senators are the ones who need to hear from us most.

Write to your crossbench senator and urge them to vote against Morrison's bill:

The word is that the minister's numbers are looking shaky. Earlier this month Palmer United Party Leader, Clive Palmer, wrote a "please explain" letter to Mr Morrison, raising concerns about the bill.2 And Mr Palmer has good cause for concern, because if passed this bill will:

1. Reintroduce Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs), which are widely known to cause mental health problems as they force people to live in a state of uncertainty and instability. They would also create a huge administrative and financial burden, as applications will need to be repeatedly reviewed at least every three years.

2. Remove references to the UN Refugee Convention from our laws. It will redefine the term "refugee" under Australian law to one that is woefully out of step with, and narrower than, the definition currently accepted under international law.

3. Allow the Government to ignore our non-refoulement obligations, which exist to prevent a country from sending people back to places where they could suffer significant harm, such as torture.

4. Give the Immigration Minister extraordinary powers to detain people at sea and send them to another country – regardless of whether we have the country's consent, or whether the country is a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention.

5. Introduce a fast track process for processing refugee application, which will put people at risk of being sent back to persecution and undermine our robust and rigorous refugee determination process. For example, people who have experienced severe mental or physical trauma (such as sexual violence), may not be comfortable disclosing this information to people they've just met. However, people who don't offer up this information in their initial interview could face being sent back under the "fast track" application process.

6. Give the Immigration Minister power to suspend processing of protection visas applications and limit the number of people who receive protection.

While Mr Palmer may have his reservations, it's the Palmer United Party senators and other crossbenchers who will have the vote. So far, Victorian senator John Madigan, is the only crossbench senator who has put their opposition to this bill on the record.

Minister Morrison will try to push his bill through in the final six sitting days of Parliament, which means the vote could take place anytime time between now and Thursday next week.

Already, more than 3600 GetUp members have written to their senator calling on them to vote against the bill. Can you help build up the pressure in these final days and urge your crossbench senator to vote against this reckless bill?

Yours in hope,
Alycia, Kelsey and Sally for the GetUp team

[1] Human Rights Committee finds Australian immigration proposals violate international law, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 November 2014
[2] Clive Palmer sends 'please explain' note over temporary protection visa deal, The Guardian, 2 November 2014
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