Sunday, July 21, 2013

Opposition supports elements of PNG asylum policy as first boat arrives

 THE first 81 asylum seekers subject to Kevin Rudd's new PNG regime have entered detention on Christmas Island, as the Opposition said a Coalition government would keep elements of the hardline Labor policy. 
 The asylum seekers' vessel was the first to berth at the island since the Prime Minister announced on Friday that people who arrived in Australia by boat and without a visa would be given no chance to settle here. 

Asylum boat at Christmas Island 20-07
A baby peers out of the door of a boat at Flying Fish Cove, carrying the first 74 people to be subject to Labor's new rules on asylum seekers. Picture: Colin Murty Source: The Australian
Instead, they would be sent to PapuaNew Guinea and settled there, he said.
Immigration Minister Tony Burke said that the rules would apply from Friday afternoon but that it would take a "couple of weeks" to send people to PNG’s Manus Island, beginning with single men and later including women and children.
The new boat was located by HMAS Bathurst at 9.50pm AEST Friday and at around 3.50am AEST was secured in Flying Fish Cove at Christmas Island.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (ASMA) received a call about the boat from the Australian mainland at 7.11pm on Friday night. The caller said a vessel had broken down on route to Christmas Island. 
After several more calls the position of the vessel was established to be 48 nautical miles north to north-east of Christmas Island. AMSA issued a broadcast to ships and sought assistance from Border Protection command, which sent the Bathurst to escort the boat.

 A statement from Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare yesterday said that there were 81 passengers and two crew on the boat. 
 The passengers, which included women, children and babies, have now been taken ashore.
Mr Clare's office confirmed that the asylum seekers, who are all from Iran, would be subject to Labor's new asylum regime.
Mr Rudd yon Friday put no limit on the number of people to be redirected to PNG under the policy shift, a new approach that triggered a political firestorm as the Greens and humanitarian organisations warned of the cruelty to refugees and the Opposition questioned Labor’s ability to implement the policy.
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said yesterdat that a Coalition government would keep aspects of the new rules but said that Mr Rudd’s plan was light on detail.
“Once again we have a prime minister making a big announcement but the detail and the operations and the costs are completely unknown,'' he said.
“The problem is not with the idea but with this government's inability to implement idea … The coalition sees some merit in these measures and they can certainly complement the measures that the coalition stands by ... (But) of course you need to go the extra distance and turn boats back where it is safe to do so.''
Mr Morrison said the Liberals welcomed PNG's preparedness to resettle people.
“That is certainly something we'd be seeking to take up from them, as well as the ability to expand the regional processing capacity on Manus Island.''
But Mr Morrison warned the policy raised a number of legal issues and could be subject to a legal challenge either in Australia or PNG. He also said there were practical challenges in implementing such a policy in PNG that could take years to resolve.
Meanwhile, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman told the Liberal National Party state conference in Brisbane that the policy could cause more PNG residents to cross the “porous” Torres Strait border to use services in Queensland, and that asylum seekers were likely to follow them.
“Right now the taxpayers of Queensland are spending $10 million each year ... on treating PNG nationals who've come across the state into Queensland and some even made it all the way to Cairns to be treated for diseases there that they cannot be treated for in PNG,” Mr Newman said.
“What Kevin Rudd is doing is creating a launching pad for a wave of additional ongoing immigration from PNG into Queensland, either legal or illegal.''
But Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare defended the drastic new approach to boat people, calling it was a simple and practical idea that removed the incentive for people to risk their lives at sea.
“This is costing us billions of dollars already and its costing us hundreds and hundreds of lives,'' he said on the Nine Network.
“If this works it has the potential to reduce the cost that we currently pay for processing asylum seekers. And if it works it has the potential very importantly to reduce the number of people that are losing their lives in the middle of the ocean.''
And Treasurer Chris Bowen as defended Labor’s decision to advertise its policy change in full-page newspaper advertisements across the country yesterday. The ads state: “If you come here by boat without a visa you won't be settled in Australia''. The national campaign will be followed by advertisements overseas.
“It is very important that people in Australia understand the new policy settings and it is very important that people down the chain of supply of boats to Australia understand it as well,” Mr Bowen told Sky News.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said he would make a formal complaint about the ads to the Auditor General, which he described as a blatantly political campaign paid for by the taxpayer.
The United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, said it had not been involved in the agreement between Australia and the PNG, and that it was seeking information about the deal.
A group representing more than 2000 Australian lawyers called the new regime shameful. Australian Lawyers for Human Rights president John Southalan said PNG had indicated when it joined the Refugee Convention that it wouldn't be bound by obligations regarding the rights of asylum seekers to work and education.
He also pointed out PNG had not signed the treaty against torture.
“These are very serious deficiencies in the legal protections which Australia considers important,'' he said.
Additional reporting: AAP

No comments:

Post a Comment