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Dec 23, 2011

Labor asylum-seeker offer, a sham.

Cartoon: By Pickering.

Stung by the multiple disasters caused by refugee boats being sent from Indonesia to Australia and sinking, Labor has been dragged kicking and screaming into offering the Liberals a ‘compromise’ toward a bipartisan solution to the problem. Even in this effort they are unable to seek a genuine solution, insisting on keeping the ‘Malaysia solution’ despite knowing that the Liberals will never agree to it.

The offer is not to use Nauru, but merely to put it on the table, with the proviso that the Liberals support the Malaysia deal. The liberals have made it clear ever since Malaysia was first mentioned that they would not support sending refugees to a country that was not a signatory to the Refugee Convention.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen’s call on the Coalition to support the Malaysian Solution "without amendment" makes it clear there will be no real compromise. His claim that “As a complement to the Malaysia agreement, we are happy to engage with the government of Nauru, to see if a processing centre can be developed on Nauru,” is disingenuous as such a centre already exists and cash strapped Nauru are desperate to have it up and running again.

The Labor Party is using the loss of up to 200 lives to attempt to force the Liberals to back down on what is a core issue for them, in return for nebulous undertakings to consider their favored options with no guarantees. Nauru is not being used now because of the embarrassment Labor would suffer by reintroducing a system that worked until they scrapped it. This way they can blame their own folly on the opposition.

The survivors of the latest tragedy have made it clear that they intend to try again for the simple reason that those who get on a boat and survive the trip are virtually guaranteed settlement here, ahead of those who have waited for years in some cases for a place in the queue. While this impasse exists in the cyclone season we can expect more disasters.

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