govt to be rebuffed on asylum swap deal

  1. 1,338 Posts.

    Susanna Dunkerley and Don Woolford, AAPMay 30, 2011, 12:23 pm

    The Gillard government is facing embarrassing parliamentary defeats over key elements of its asylum-seeker policy.

    Two crossbenchers who usually back Labor are spearheading a motion, supported by the opposition, condemning the still-incomplete swap deal with Malaysia on asylum seekers.

    The pair, Australian Greens Adam Bandt and independent Andrew Wilkie, also back an opposition motion for a parliamentary inquiry into Christmas Island and Villawood detention centre riots.

    Debate on the motions was adjourned on Monday but the combination makes it highly likely they will pass.

    The Senate already has passed the Greens motion condemning the Malaysia deal, put to the lower house by Mr Bandt on Monday.

    If also passed in the lower house, it will be the first time in the new parliament both houses have condemned a government policy, Mr Bandt said, noting his decision was not taken "lightly".

    "The government ... will have received a very clear message from parliament rejecting the Malaysia deal, and a very strong request the deal be abandoned," he told parliament.

    Independent MP Andrew Wilkie backed the Greens motion, describing the swap deal as a "shameful public policy".

    "(Malaysia) forcibly returns them (asylum seekers) to danger, routinely relies on the lash of the cane and even resorts to the barbaric death penalty," he said.

    The two MPs indicated they would also support the opposition's motion to scrutinise the "chaos and misery" of Australia's immigration detention network.

    Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison, who moved the motion, agreed to crossbench calls for the inquiry's terms of reference to be broadened.

    That included consideration of "any reforms needed to the current immigration detention network in Australia".

    Mr Wilkie says it is obvious the system is in crisis, noting recent riots, suicides and the deadly Christmas Island wreckage in December 2010.

    He slammed the "failed" and costly mandatory detention system, saying an inquiry was needed.

    "I trust that it will not be a political circus, but instead the first step to Australia adopting a more humane and affective approach."

    Mr Bandt says mandatory detention treats asylum seekers "worse than criminals" who know when they are due to be released.

    "Anything we can do to shed a light on the (policy) is something that I welcome," he said, urging that the inquiry be conducted by a committee made up with MPs from both houses.

    Liberal backbencher Judi Moylan, who has previously crossed the floor against the policy of mandatory detention, again slammed the practice.
    "I support this motion (for inquiry) in the hope that it will publicly air and stop the cruel and odious practice of indefinite arbitrary detention of asylum seekers."
arrow-down-2 Created with Sketch. arrow-down-2 Created with Sketch.