Federal Labor will look closely at the government’s new tough stance on refugees but says it’s ridiculous that some banned from Australia won’t ever be allowed to visit for business, accusing Malcolm Turnbull of pandering to One Nation.
The opposition has not entirely ruled out the government’s proposed lifetime ban on asylum seekers who arrive by boat, instead saying it will look at the legislation before coming up with a position.
Under the plan, all adults sent to offshore immigration centres on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island would be prevented from ever entering Australia, even as tourists or on business, regardless of whether they’re found to be refugees or not.
The coalition is ramping up its attack on Opposition Leader Bill Shorten for not publicly stating a position on the ban within 24 hours of its announcement.
“This bloke is weak,” former immigration minister Scott Morrison told Sydney radio station 2GB.
Mr Shorten says Labor will look closely at the legislation “when the government can be bothered releasing it”.
“It seems ridiculous to me that a genuine refugee who settles in the US or Canada and becomes a US or Canadian citizen is banned from visiting Australia as a tourist, businessman or businesswoman 40 years down the track,” he said.
He also took aim at the prime minister, saying the Mr Turnbull of old would never have proposed this to keep the right-wing extremists in his party happy.
“He’s earning the praise of Pauline Hanson–I hope he’s proud of that.”
Meanwhile, One Nation is both applauding and claiming a win over the government’s tough stance.
Its Queensland senator Malcolm Roberts said the government was “dancing to our tune’, while leader Pauline Hanson put it more bluntly.
“Refugees are not welcome here,” she told the Seven Network.
Concerns have also been raised the ban may contravene article 31 of the international refugee convention, which states signatory nations shall not penalise refugees for illegal entry when they have come directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened.
Amnesty International says the outrageous and unnecessary law discriminates against people seeking safety based on their mode of arrival, a clear breach of Australia’s obligations.
““This is yet another layer of cruelty in Australia’s already deliberately abusive policy,” refugee campaigner Ming Yu Hah said.
But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull insists the plan does not contravene the convention.
“We have taken legal advice and we are satisfied it is within power and consistent with our international obligations,” he told reporters in outback South Australia on Monday.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale told ABC radio he was hopeful that “if Labor shows a little bit of courage on this issue”, it could be struck down.
Mr Turnbull said the government has spoken to just one of the 11 Senate crossbenchers about the proposal, which it will put to parliament next week.
Independent senators Derryn Hinch and Nick Xenophon separately said they supported the government in general but wanted to see details.
Meanwhile, the debate comes as the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crepeau, is due to arrive on Tuesday to look at the government’s migration policies and laws.
The Federal Government wants to pass laws to make sure no asylum seekers who tried to come to Australia by boat, even those found to be refugees, can ever enter the country.
The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today told media “the door to Australia is closed to those who seek to come here by boat with a people smuggler”.
“That absolutely unflinching, unequivocal message has to be loud and clear,” he told reporters in Sydney this morning.
The government will ask parliament to ban everyone who was sent to Nauru or Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island for offshore immigration processing after July 19, 2013–the date Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd declared: “As of today, asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia.”
The ban would apply whether or not they were found to be refugees and extends to all types of visas, including tourist and business categories. Asylum seekers aged under 18 at the time they were sent to Nauru or Manus Island would be exempt.
The minister would also have power to lift the bar if they believe it’s in the public interest for someone to be allowed in to Australia.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton described the plan as one of the government’s strongest moves, building on the success of its border protection policies over the past three years.
It sent a clear message that Australia was not an option.
“There are still people, advocates in Australia and elsewhere, who are messaging to people on Nauru and Manus, that at some stage you’ll come to Australia,” Mr Dutton said.
“Those people are living in false hope and it cannot continue.” The legislation would reflect the coalition’s long-standing policy and what it understood to be Labor’s position, Mr Turnbull said.
He expects the opposition will give “unequivocal support” to the move.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop earlier this morning said the government would enshrine in law what had been a longstanding policy.
“This is a tough message we are sending to the people smuggling syndicates and those who pay people smugglers to try and enter Australia,” she told ABC TV.
“We are sending a strong message to those currently in Manus and Nauru, if they are found to be owed protection, they will not be resettled in Australia. If they’re not found to be owed protection, they should return home.”
This would even apply to accepted refugees later attempting to visit via tourist visa, she said.
“I will never forget 1200 people that we know of drowned at sea coming to Australia under these people smuggling networks,” she said. “We cannot have situations where people are drowning at sea and that is why we are working through the case load, the cohort of people who are on Manus and Nauru, to find third country resettlements for them and if they want to stay in PNG and in Nauru, they can be resettled there.”
Mr Turnbull expects Labor and its leader Bill Shorten will support the laws, saying they are “entirely consistent with his party’s stated public position”.
Mr Dutton added Australia has ‘discussions ongoing with a number of countries’ on the issue of resettling the asylum seekers already at Naru and Manus.
Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek said it was too soon to determine if Labor would support the bill.
“What I’d say is it’s a distraction from Peter Dutton’s hopeless mismanagement of his portfolio,” she told reporters on the Gold Coast.
“It is extraordinary that, three years on, the government has not found third countries to resettle those people who are in limbo on Manus Island and Nauru.” She said Mr Dutton needed to find a permanent resettlement option for these people left in limbo.