May 12, 2014
Two federal opposition MPs are seeking to trigger a rethink of Labor’s support for offshore processing of asylum seekers.
The Western Australian MP Melissa Parke gave notice to colleagues on Monday of a motion to be moved at the next caucus meeting that Labor “shall no longer support the transfer of asylum seekers by Australia to Manus Island or Nauru and shall call for the detention centres in those places to be closed down forthwith”.
The motion, seconded by the former speaker Anna Burke, notes “the killing of Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati and the injuries done through violence to many others at the detention centre on Manus Island in February 2013 for which no person has yet been held responsible”.
It points to “reports of inhumane, unsafe and completely unsatisfactory conditions for asylum seekers detained on Manus Island and Nauru” and says the circumstances are inconsistent with the ALP national platform commitment to treat asylum seekers with dignity and compassion and in accordance with international obligations.
The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, and his immigration spokesman, Richard Marles, have largely confined their attacks on the government to secrecy surrounding asylum-seeker boat turnarounds and the return of people to Indonesia on Australian-supplied lifeboats, and the deterioration in the relationship with Indonesia.
They have also sought to downplay the government’s declaration of success in “stopping the boats”, instead crediting Kevin Rudd’s Papua New Guinea deal with slowing the arrival rates. Marles said last week the Manus Island centre was “playing an important role in saving lives at sea”, but said the centre needed to be operated in a humane and dignified manner.
The immigration minister, Scott Morrison, said on Friday that 20 weeks had passed “without a successful people-smuggling venture to Australia” thanks to the government’s policies, “despite continued opposition from Labor and the Greens”.