JUDITH IRELAND | Sydney Morning Herald | With AAP
PNG Opposition Leader Belden Namah (pictured) launched the challenge with the National Court last Friday, saying he believed the centre was unconstitutional and detainees were being held illegally.
''The ministers of the O'Neill-Dion government have now received a summons to appear and defend their conduct in the National Court,'' he said. ''We will take this matter as far as necessary to ensure that the values of our nation's constitution are upheld.''
Mr Dreyfus, who is a cabinet secretary as well as a QC, said the Labor government had reached an agreement on regional processing with the PNG government.
''I think when you've got the opposition leader in PNG bringing a proceeding in the Supreme Court, it does smack of politics,'' he told Sky News today.
The memorandum of understanding [MOU] between Australia and PNG states that transfers of people to Manus and the running of the centre will be in accordance with both countries' laws.
''The government of Australia will conduct all activities in respect of this MOU in accordance with its constitution and all relevant domestic laws [and] the government of PNG will conduct all activities in respect of this MOU in accordance with its constitution and all relevant domestic laws,'' it states.
It is this aspect of the constitution that the PNG opposition is challenging in court.
Mr Namah said the challenge asked the courts to declare that the MOU is unlawful because it allows Australia to force asylum seekers to enter PNG territory, and allows the PNG government to deprive those asylum seekers of their liberty as soon as they enter Papua New Guinea.
Mr Namah said the legal challenge attempted to ''remedy the many abuses of PNG law and of ministerial powers which have given rise to the situation on Manus''.
He said the opposition challenged the right of the government to force people seeking refugee status in Australia to enter PNG, where they were being held ''illegally and indefinitely under inhumane conditions''.
The injunction seeks to have the current detainees released and to prevent the government from receiving or detaining any more asylum seekers from Australia.
A spokesman for Australia’s Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said: ''We have a binding MOU with the PNG government and that is working well. We are not going to comment on politics or court matters in another country.''
He said it was unclear whether Australia would be required to have a role in the court case.