Thursday, August 16, 2012


Three articles below

Coalition will back Nauru, Manus centres

Tony Abbott (conservative leader) and Julia Gillard (Leftist leader) stared one-another down and Julia crumpled first. She needed to.  It is a great triumph for Abbott's political judgment.  The new scheme won't work under Labor but it gives Tony the tools to make it work when he gains power next year

URGENT government legislation to reinstate offshore processing of asylum seekers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea will have the support of the federal opposition.

"We've been asking the prime minister to do this for four years," opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison told ABC television on Tuesday.

But the coalition won't back any attempt to resurrect the Malaysia people-swap deal through the "back door".

The legislation, likely to be rushed into parliament on Tuesday, will not nominate specific sites for offshore processing.

Instead that will be done by ministerial regulation, a measure that could be overturned by a vote of parliament.

Mr Morrison described the Malaysia deal, quashed by the High Court last year, as a "purely hypothetical" option.  Immigration Minister Chris Bowen welcomed Mr Morrison's support.

The man who headed an expert panel on asylum seeker policy options says processing centres in Nauru and on Manus Island in PNG will not operate as detention centres.

"It will be quite different to what was set up last time," former defence force chief Angus Houston told ABC radio.  "These will be much better conditions for people to live in."

However offshore processing would still act as a deterrent to people risking their lives at sea.

"We believe spending time at Nauru or Manus will reduce the attractiveness of the option of trying to come to Australia on a leaky boat," Mr Houston said.


No 5-star treatment for refugees: Abbott

ASYLUM seekers who may be stuck in tents on Nauru under new laws to revive offshore processing cannot expect five-star or even three-star treatment, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says.

New legislation before parliament, modelled on the recommendations of former defence chief Angus Houston's expert panel, is still being debated after a marathon session into Tuesday night.

It means offshore processing on Nauru and Papua New Guinea will be allowed to proceed with coalition support.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has conceded asylum seekers initially may be living in tents.

Mr Abbott says Ms Gillard could have had the centres ready by now.

"If they got cracking on Nauru at Christmas time, as they should have, the centre would be done and they wouldn't be living in tents," he told the Nine Network on Wednesday.

However, Mr Abbott said if people were living in tents, "so be it".  "People who arrive illegally by boat need to be treated humanely, but they can't expect five-star treatment or even three-star treatment," he said.  "The important thing is we have rigorous offshore processing.

Australian Greens leader Christine Milne does not believe it is humane to house people in tents.  She also says it's costly to set up the tents and the army doesn't have the resources to man the centres.

"It just highlights, on the one hand Angus Houston is saying people will be treated better this time, and in the next breath we are going to be setting up these huge, temporary tent camps, and we are taking away people's human rights," Senator Milne told reporters.

Mental illness programs will be needed to deal with people who have been "driven to despair" by the situation, she said.

Nationals senate leader Barnaby Joyce says asylum seekers will regard the prospect of living in a tent as a better alternative than losing their life at sea.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon wants a robust parliamentary debate about the government's plan.  "It ought to be debated thoroughly, it ought not to be gagged," he told reporters.


Processing to start in weeks but detention to last years

THE first asylum seekers will be processed on Nauru and Manus Island within a month but kept there for years under plans by the government to speed up the establishment of detention camps on the islands.

The government said today these could include some 200 asylum seekers who have been picked up since 4.45pm on Monday, the cut-off time set by the government for being guaranteed processing on Christmas Island and resettlement in Australia.
The Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers comprised by Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston c Professor Michael L'Estrange R and Paris Aristotle

With legislation to re-establish a harsher version of the "Pacific solution" set to pass the House of Representatives today, and the Senate by the end of the week, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will send a team of defence officials to each location on Friday to scope out sites for new detention facilities.

These will take several months to build, but Ms Gillard said the first people sent there would be housed in temporary accommodation, such as tents.

She reaffirmed that those sent there would be subject to "no advantage" principles and would be resettled no sooner than if they were in a refugee camp in Malaysia, Indonesia or elsewhere. The government would discuss with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees a suitable time but estimates range as high as four to five years.

The government is acting after an expert panel, comprising the former Defence Force chief Angus Houston, the refugee expert Paris Aristotle and the former diplomat Michael L'Estrange, issued 22 recommendations.

It said until a long-term regional solution was reached, short-term circuit breakers such as Nauru and Manus Island were needed. They also said the Malaysia plan was integral to stopping the boats but it needed further negotiated safeguards for vulnerable asylum seekers sent back to Malaysia before it should be implemented.

Ms Gillard rang her Malaysian counterpart yesterday to get talks under way, but even if a deal is reached, the Parliament would never allow Malaysia, meaning Nauru and Manus Island will become the centrepieces of the new policy.

Ms Gillard phoned the President of Nauru, Sprent Dabwido, and the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O'Neill, yesterday to request the use of their territory. They agreed but last night a Papua New Guinean politician, Powes Parkop, protested against the use of Manus Island.

The opposition has agreed to pass the legislation enabling the "Pacific solution" but was merciless in in its attacks on the government yesterday for abandoning the policy four years ago.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said Ms Gillard bore responsibility for the 22,000 "illegal immigrants" who had arrived in that time, the almost 1000 who died trying to reach Australia and for the $4.7 billion hit to the budget.

Mr Abbott said he was not blaming Ms Gillard personally for the deaths but "the government's policy failures gave the people smugglers a business model".

"Let us thank God that after four years the government has come to its senses and admitted that it was wrong," he said.

Ms Gillard refused to engage but said as either Prime Minister, deputy prime minster or just an MP: "I accept responsibility for my actions".

Mr Aristotle said adopting the recommendations would not blow the budget but save money.

Presently, the government has budgeted $5 billion over four years to accommodate 450 boat arrivals each month but this figure would have blown out because about 1800 a month are arriving at the moment.

The panel was advised by the Department of Finance that all its recommendations, including Malaysia, would cost $4.6 billion over four years.


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