Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash

Shadow Attorney-General

Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations

Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate

Senator for Western Australia


24 OCTOBER 2023


The Attorney-General’s Department has been unable to confirm whether it gave vital legal advice to the Government on the international law implications of Australia’s first transfer of asylum seekers to Nauru in nine years.

On Monday in Senate Estimates hearings, the Australian Border Force revealed that in September of this year it intercepted a boat at sea and transferred the passengers to Nauru – the first such transfer in nine years.

On Tuesday, officials from the Attorney-General’s Department were not able to confirm whether they were even consulted about the international law implications of the transfer.

“This is extraordinary” said Shadow Attorney-General Michaelia Cash, who questioned them on the matter.

“These are very serious international law issues that were front of mind when the Coalition set up Operation Sovereign Borders and stopped the boats.

“But we don’t even know whether Attorney Dreyfus or his Department even knew about the transfer.

“None of the senior officials who gave evidence today could say whether they’d provided advice, or even been consulted on the transfer.

“Australia has specific obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Child, for example, to consider the best interests of the child. Was that taken into account? We just don’t know,” Senator Cash said.

“It’s bad enough that Labor’s dismantling of Operation Sovereign Borders is re-incentivising people smugglers – the least the Government can do is get the appropriate legal advice on all the issues involved,’’ she said.