By Robert Williams
The Australian High Court has today ruled that the Federal Government continues to have the power to detain people brought to Australia from offshore detention for medical and other reasons.
In 2013, two Iranians (a mother and her daughter) landed at Christmas Island (an Australian external territory located approximately 1,500 km from the Australian mainland).
They were taken from Christmas Island to Nauru, where the Australian govt operates the Nauru detention centre - an off-shore processing facility.
The High Court challenge was brought by the mother and daughter who came to Australia for medical treatment in 2014.
Lawyers argued that under the constitution the Govt's detention powers extended only to those seeking entry with a visa or in the process of being expelled or deported.
The High Court was told none of the criteria applied to the women, because they were not entitled to seek a visa, because of their detention offshore, nor were they in the process of being deported.
The court was told the women had not been detained for a legitimate non-punitive purpose.
But the Government urged the court to throw out the entire challenge, saying its powers were valid.
The court agreed, finding the detention was for a lawful purpose, namely their eventual removal from Australia.
Both have been allowed to live outside detention since late 2016.