Mandatory indefinite detention should not be the way justice is delivered in Australia

5 December 2023

The Australian Jewish Democratic Society welcomes the recent ruling by the High Court that indefinite immigration detention is unlawful. The Australian Human Rights Commission said, “The orders made by the High Court in this case suggest that even if a person has committed a crime in the past and served their prison sentence, they cannot be further punished through indefinite administrative detention.”

The High Court ruling has seen the release of 148 people from indefinite detention back into the community. The furore from sections of the media, from the federal government and from the opposition, has seen fear, panic and anger whipped up in the wider community and an unedifying parliamentary debate about how quickly this group of asylum seekers can be re-imprisoned; how quickly the ruling of the High Court can be circumvented.

There is a lack of information about who has been released/detained and why they were incarcerated, but we know that it affects people awaiting deportation who cannot be deported for a variety of reasons. The result is that some have been held for many years after their prison sentences were complete with no prospect of release.

We don’t have this debate about every prisoner in Australia released back into the community after serving their sentence. Why are we having this debate about a small number of people treated in the most cruel manner by our system of immigration?

If there are individuals assessed to pose a direct risk to the community, then state or federal governments already have ways to minimize that risk. 148 people released into the community from indefinite detention is not going to pose a threat to the lives of Australians. Mandatory indefinite detention must not be the way our legal system delivers justice in Australia.

We are all shamed by the debate in our federal parliament whose unedifying aim, for base partisan political advantage, is to rob people of their right to freedom by subverting the law.