July 21, 2013
Hundreds of people have rallied in Brisbane and Adelaide against the Federal Government’s new policy of sending asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea.
Under the plan announced by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Friday, people arriving at Christmas Island will be processed in Papua New Guinea and resettled there, if they are deemed to be refugees.
Protesters voiced their outrage at the plan and vowed to continue their campaign for as long as it takes.
A huge crowd swarmed the steps of Parliament House in Adelaide before marching to Rundle Mall.
Paul Coats from the Adelaide Refugee Action Group has vowed to continue the fight.
“This decision by the Federal Government is absolutely monstrous,” he said.
“We’re here to show that we are outraged by the horrible, horrible lurch to the right that Kevin Rudd has made and we’re not going to put up with it.
“We’re not going to just stand by and let the Labor Party pass through this horrendous anti-human policy.”
Meanwhile, some refugee advocates ignored Queensland police advice not to march on the road during the Brisbane protest which attracted more than 200 protestors.
The Refugee Action Collective did not warn police of plans to march on the road but they did anyway even when advised not to.
The march disrupted traffic for a short period of time.
Senior Sergeant Sean McKay says police respect the right to protest but the rally tied up resources.
“Worst case scenario, something could happen somewhere else and the police are here,” he said.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says people from all sides of politics are outraged by the plan.
“There are many in the Australian community, many Labor voters, many Liberal voters who are devastatingly disappointed that this race to the bottom has gotten as far and as low as it has,” he said.
“People want an Australia that stands up for decency, stands up for what is right, stands up for fairness.”
Opposition questions legality of PNG asylum seeker deal
The Federal Opposition says the Government’s asylum seeker deal with PNG is not on solid legal ground and does not guarantee people, especially non-refugees, would not be returned to Australia.
Coalition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says the document the two countries have signed is not legally binding.
“What it is, is a document that doesn’t even have the legal standing of a Memorandum of Understanding,” he said.
“And remember it was the Memorandum of Understanding that was found not to be legally binding enough to protect the Malaysian people swap when that was struck down by the High Court.”
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says the document the two countries signed is flimsy.
“Something that is held together by blue tac and sticky tape,” he said.
However, Labor argues the policy is watertight and would not allow a single person arriving by boat to live in Australia.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has told Channel 10 concerns about capacity in PNG are unfounded.
“There’s an unlimited number that can be sent.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr told Sky News he expected the Opposition would support any legislation necessary to counter a court challenge.
“Should we win the election and it may be necessary to legislate in response to a High Court decision to the country that there’s be support in the Parliament for it.”
The Government says a boat carrying asylum seekers which arrived on Christmas Island on Friday will be the last to be dealt with on Christmas Island.