Saturday, September 10, 2011

Face-saving deal that would include Malaysia, PNG and Nauru may solve Australia's boatpeople impasse

A FACE-saving deal that includes Labor's Malaysian refugee swap and offshore processing on Nauru and Manus Island has emerged as the most likely solution to the nation's border protection impasse.

The Australian Online understands Labor and the opposition are considering a compromise which would put offshore processing beyond doubt, while allowing transfer arrangements in which asylum-seekers are relocated to third countries such as Malaysia.

It's understood an Immigration Department briefing to Tony Abbott this week, which echoed similar advice to the government, made a strong case for both the Malaysian transfer and offshore processing.

Julia Gillard is convening a crisis meeting of senior ministers in Canberra today to finalise the government's strategy on border protection, as well as finding a way forward for its $11 billion mining tax, which is struggling to find support in the parliament.

Officially, both the government and the opposition are refusing to cede ground following last week's High Court ruling declaring the Malaysian Solution invalid and putting offshore processing in doubt.

But without a deal to break the stalemate, both sides are left without an effective border protection policy.

Reopening Australia's detention centre on Nauru remains the opposition's preferred solution, while the government says its Malaysian Solution is now the only effective deterrent against people-smugglers.

There is bipartisan agreement on restarting processing on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.

Mr Abbott said he was awaiting a formal proposal from the government.

“It's up to the government to give us its new policy and at the moment the Prime Minister appears to be paralysed; paralysed on the one hand by the prospect of more boats and on the other hand by the prospect of a revolt from the Greens and the Left,” the Opposition Leader told Nine's Today Show.

Former immigration minister Amanda Vanstone said immigration department predictions of 600 asylum-seeker arrivals a month under onshore-only processing were conservative.

She warned of a “come on down approach” unless offshore processing was restored.

“Look I haven't seen this briefing (but) you are going to get thousands of people coming,” said Ms Vanstone, who served as immigration minister for three years under the Howard government.

“I thought the 600-700 a month figure was a bit conservative myself. If you had onshore processing you would absolutely have overflowing detention centres.”

Ms Vanstone said a tougher approach was needed on boatpeople and urged for Howard-era temporary protection sisas to be revived and Nauru reopened.


Australian immigration authorities on the lookout for illegals in major agricultural area (Bundaberg)

Farmers onside

EMPLOYERS in the region have been served a warning by immigration officers of the penalties they face by hiring illegal workers. This comes after a two-day crackdown in which seven illegal workers were detained.

Two takeaway shop workers who had breached their visa conditions were detained on Wednesday, along with four others who were believed to have been working in the horticulture industry, on Thursday.

A spokesman for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship said employers could face fines of up to $13,200 and two years imprisonment for employing an illegal worker, and the company could be fined $66,000 per worker.

"The department's compliance operations serve as a warning to the community that they can face severe consequences for remaining in Australia without a valid visa, or for employing illegal workers," he said.

The spokesman said illegal worker warning notices would be issued to employers or labour supply companies who had employed or referred illegal workers. "The notices advise employers that they have employed an illegal worker and warn of the possibility of prosecution," he said.

Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers chairman Geoff Chivers said farmers were often very strict when it came to the hiring of international workers on their farms. "It's not in farmers' interests to break the law," he said. "We do regularly update our growers as to their legal requirements when employing people."

Mr Chivers said it was an "onerous" task for employers in the horticulture industry who had to chase up employee paperwork, but farmers knew the penalties they faced. "At times, it is possible for people to give us a false tax file number," he said.

Mr Chivers stressed the industry could not support those people who worked with an inappropriate visa. "We have to make it fair on people who do have visas against those trying to work illegally," he said.


No comments:

Post a Comment