Asylum report leaves political questions
Tue, 14 Aug 2012 6:20p.m.
By Australia Correspondent Rachel Morton
Australia's parliament is on the verge of a solution to the asylum seeker crisis.
A panel of independent experts has made recommendations that look set to be adopted, but it will mean a backdown for Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Gillard said she would accept whatever recommendation an independent panel of experts on asylum seekers came up with, and for her that means a backdown.
“If people want to put a banner saying this is a compromise from the Government, dead right,” says Ms Gillard. “This is about saving lives.”
The panel, headed by Australia's former Chief of Defence, recommends that asylum seekers be processed in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, where they would face indefinite detention.
That's instead of the "people swap" deal Ms Gillard's Labor Party had wanted with Malaysia, where asylum seekers would be swapped for refugees.
“We have had to develop our position and compromise and that's what the Australian people are looking for,” says Immigration Minister Chris Bowan.
Offshore processing and mandatory detention is reminiscent of John Howard’s "Pacific solution", which Labor refused to support.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott says if they had agreed four years ago hundreds of lives would have been saved.
With the support of Labor and the coalition, the recommendations are likely to become law.
The Greens and refugee advocates are outraged.
“What this is about is making sure people drown elsewhere,” says Pamela Curr, campaign director at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.
“The Greens will not be party to something that is cruel to people,” says Greens leader Senator Christine Milne.
Julia Gillard met with the Chief of Defence today, who said work could begin in Nauru and Papua New Guinea this week.
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