Daily Telegraph, December 17, 2018
Bill Shorten made the announcements ahead of debate on refugee policy at the national conference on Monday afternoon as he attempted to head off criticism Labor would weaken Australia’s border security.
He told the room of Labor faithful that while he respected their right to debate the issue it was his view that Labor “cannot and we must not and we will not allow criminal people smuggling syndicates to get back into business”.
Labor will almost double Australia’s annual refugee intake, Bill Shorten says.
“This requires rigorous security, character and health assessments throughout both our humanitarian and general migration programs,” he said.
“It means pursuing regional resettlement, turning back boats where it is safe to do so and maintaining offshore processing.”
But in a pitch to Labor’s left wing that has been pushing for an end to indefinite detention on Nauru, Mr Shorten appeared to be open to the idea.
“Keeping the people smugglers out of business should and has never meant leaving men, women and children to languish for years and years in indefinite detention in substandard facilities and unacceptable conditions,” he said.
Despite this morning’s announcements aimed at tempering the Left, Mr Shorten signalled he still expected there would be a push for border protection changes.
“I sincerely respect the right of delegates to put arguments, to make the case,” he said.
“I appreciate that everyone in this room comes to this issue with a passion that is genuine and deep.’
The time frame for lifting the number of refugees allowed into Australia from the current 18,500 a year to more than 30,000 was unclear, with Mr Shorten simply saying the increase would happen “over time”.
The $500 million in aid to be paid to the UNHCR over five years would deliver asylum seeker assessment and resettlement processes across the region and closer to source countries in a bid to stop vulnerable people being exploited by people smugglers to travel by boat.