Clare O’Neil is a member of the House of Representatives representing the seat of Hotham in Victoria and is the current Minister for Home Affairs and the Minister for Cyber Security. Ms. O’Neil oversaw the two largest cyber attacks in Australia’s history, one against Medicare and the other against Optus, during her first six month as Minister for Cyber Security.
The High Court’s Indefinite Detention Decision
Following the Australian High Court’s decision to overturn a precedent of indefinite detention in Australia, the federal government was forced to release 93 people. Ms. O’Neil had repeatedly stated that the government had “no choice” but to release those held in detention, including sex offenders and murderers. Speaking to Sky News in mid-November, Ms. O’Neil stated that the decision was “so significant” it would require the government to “rethink the management of immigration detention”
At the time of the decision a further 250 people being held in immigration detention were expected to be affected by the ruling. This group of individuals were refused visas either due to issues of national security or on character grounds. The government was then unable to return them to their home country or find another country to send them, resulting in their indefinite detention.
Following the decision, Ms. O’Neil stated that her department had informed the government that they were likely to win the case. According to the ABC, this contradicted the legal advice provided by several legal experts, all of whom expected the court to rule as they did.
The Coalition has also criticised the government’s handling of the issue following the court’s decision, with Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton, arguing that the government should have placed the original 93 released back into detention. Ms. O’Neil refuted this:
"I can't detain these people…If I had the legal power to detain any of these people, they would still be in detention….That is why [Immigration Minister] Andrew Giles and I had kept them in detention up until that point."
In early December Ms. O’Neil and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus addressed a press conference wherein they were asked by a reporter from Sky News if they owed an apology to the community which had been “subjected to the misdeeds by some of these people?”
“Olivia, the reason that these people have been released from immigration detention is because the high court has made a decision that means it is illegal for us to continue to detain them and I have been happy to say, on many occasions, that if i had any legal power to re-detain all of those people I would do it immediately. I would do it immediately.”