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Australian Opposition Proposes New Pacific Solution
Source: radioaustralianews.net.au
Source Date: Thursday, May 27, 2010
Focus: Citizen Engagement, Internet Governance
Country: Australia
Created: May 31, 2010

The Australian Opposition is facing an internal backlash over its new asylum seeker policies.The Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott has announced a Coalition Government will bring back the practice of processing asylum seekers in other countries, if it wins the next election.This was something the previous Howard government carried out on Nauru and PNG's Manus Island as part of the so-called 'Pacific Solution'.Mr Abbott says the Coalition will do what is necessary to stop boat arrivals.

"It's very important that rigourous offshore processing be maintained."The Coalition also plans to reintroduce temporary protection visas and those on the visas would need to work for welfare payments. Mr Abbott says he accepts some Liberals won't be comfortable with the policies. 'Punishing victims' Refugee Council of Australia chief executive Paul Power says the Coalition's announcement does not attempt to provide protection to asylum seekers."We are deeply concerned the Coalition's approach is based on punishing victims and offers no constructive response to the pressing needs of people seeking protection," he said.

"It is hard to see this new Coalition policy as anything other than a shameful attempt to use vulnerable people to score cheap political points." Amnesty International's Australian director, Claire Mallinson, says the Opposition's policy shows political self-interest is being put above human rights. "The numbers who are coming to Australia by boat are really tiny in comparison to the displaced people around the world," she said. "The Opposition needs to reflect on this one because it does not meet their international legal obligations."

Traumatised Professor Patrick McGorry, who has spent 20 years working with asylum seekers and refugees, says a return to temporary protection visas would be damaging to refugees' mental health. "These are vulnerable and traumatised people largely who've come from very difficult experiences; they need to be properly looked after when they come to this country," he said. "The temporary protection visas actually made their mental health much worse. "I looked after a number of patients on temporary protection visas - it was a very difficult experienced and they only recovered when they got some certainty back into their lives." Mr Abbott says the Government's policy is too soft and has made Australia a target of people smugglers.

"The Government has changed policy. The Government has created the problem. The Government has given people smugglers a product," he said. "What we need to do in essence is deny the people smugglers a product to sell. What we are proposing will deny them a product to sell. A number of moderate Liberal MPs, including Petro Georgiou and Russell Broadbent, say they are unhappy with the new policy. Liberal backbencher Petro Georgiou has described the policy as cruel. He says it further victimises the persecuted and doesn't have his support. No discussions with Pacific neighbours The Australian Opposition says its not yet had any discussions with the nation's Pacific neighbours over its new immigration policy.

The Shadow Immigration spokesman, Scott Morrisson, says it's too early to speculate about which other countries may be involved in processing asylum seekers. "The Coalition will not be in the business of speculating about potential locations because frankly that would prejudice any such discussions we might have in government. These are discussions you have from government to government and and when we introduced similar policies when in government we had that opportunity to do so."
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