August 17, 2012
After two days of debate the Senate has passed legislation which will allow the offshore processing of asylum seekers who come by boat.
The Greens put up several amendments to build in extra human rights protections and to stop asylum seekers from being held offshore for more than 12 months.
They also put up amendments to review the bill and to give it a so-called sunset clause so it would only last for two years.
But they were voted down by the Coalition and the Government, who joined together to pass the bill.
Some government senators, however, told the Upper House of their concerns.
The Left faction’s Doug Cameron wants the Government to promise it will also increase the humanitarian intake.
And factional colleague Gavin Marshall acknowledged the frustration within the party over the plan.
“I cannot honestly say legislation we consider today sits comfortably in the narrative of the Labor Party, a party based on social justice, compassion and a fair go,” he said.
“And it doesn’t sit well with me.
“I know that many members of the party and of the Australian public more broadly share the sense of disappointment and frustration that I feel today.”
The return to a policy the Rudd government dumped in 2008 represents a major backdown by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her government.
In two days of debate in the Lower House earlier this week, 42 Liberal and National MPs spoke on the policy, dubbed the Pacific Solution Mark II.
The Government denies it is a return to Howard-era policies and says it is hopeful the processing centres can be up and running on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island within a month.
Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce revelled in Labor’s discomfort.
“I can look at Penny Wong, ask Minister Wong, that is not your view,” he said.
“I can look at Senator (Bob) Carr and go that is not your view, and that they’re all going to vote for it, they’re all going to support it, they’re all going to stand silent on it.”
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson Young says the bill allows all asylum seekers, including children, to be detained indefinitely.
“There are 10 unaccompanied minors who have today arrived on Christmas Island who’ll be among the first people sent to Nauru,” she said.
“Why is the Government so reluctant to ensure these minors have access to these appropriate protection and welfare arrangements?”