August 14, 2012
INDEPENDENT MP Andrew Wilkie has slammed the federal parliament’s agreement on asylum seekers, labelling it a return to the “unethical” Howard-era Pacific Solution.
Mr Wilkie says he will vote against the government’s bill, which secured opposition support on Tuesday.
“This is very disappointing,” he told ABC radio.
“The Howard-era Pacific Solution, it was deeply unethical and it was arguably illegal.
“It certainly wasn’t in accordance with the spirit, and arguably wasn’t in accordance with the wording, of the (UN) refugee convention.”
Mr Wilkie said while he did not doubt the intentions of the expert panel headed by former Air Force chief Angus Houston, he insisted they had come up with the wrong model.
“It was a missed opportunity to come up with a really sophisticated and ethical response to what is a really complex problem,” he said.
“They’ve opted for a punitive border security response as opposed to a sophisticated humanitarian response.”
Mr Wilkie said a better model would have included more aid to countries of first asylum like Pakistan and Iran and to transit nations.
“The government wants this to be a punitive arrangement, it wants would-be asylum seekers to be deterred and to … let people rot on Manus Island and in Nauru,” he said.
Describing his position as “virtually at one” with the Greens, Mr Wilkie said he would call for a division in the house to put his and Adam Bandt’s concerns on the record.
“I suspect people will just breathe a sigh of relief that some sort of solution has now been put in place,” he said.
“I won’t be breathing a sigh of relief and I think a lot of other people will be thinking what on earth are they doing putting back in place the Howard-era Pacific solution.”