Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton have revealed plans to stop refugees, who came by boat and are being held in offshore detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru, from ever coming to Australia.
The Government’s intentions to introduce a lifetime ban on immigrants held in detention centres from entering Australia has been branded “ridiculous” by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who has accused the Prime Minister of capitulating to the far right wing in his party.
The lifetime ban has attracted criticism from across the world, with claims that it breaches international treaty obligations.
“It seems ridiculous to me that a genuine refugee who settles in the US or Canada and becomes a US or Canadian citizen is banned from visiting Australia as a tourist, businessman or businesswoman 40 years down the track,” Mr Shorten told Fairfax Media. “Whether he likes it or not, refugees such as Frank Lowy, Gustav Nossal and Hieu Van Le have made a huge contribution to Australia. As an Australian, that’s something I’m very proud of.
“Of course people who come by people smuggler should not be allowed to settle here – we will never allow the people smugglers back in business.”
Mr Shorten went on to describe Mr Turnbull as a prisoner of his own party’s right-wing extremists, discussing how, last week, the PM was “happy to trade a vote for weaker gun laws” and how now he’s chasing the votes of “One Nation senators to fight off Tony Abbott and keep his job”.
“He’s earning the praise of Pauline Hanson – I hope he’s proud of that,” he continued. “The old Malcolm Turnbull would never have proposed this to keep the extremists in his party happy.”
Malcolm Turnbull argues that the ban is the only way the Government can prevent people from boarding boats in order to enter the country, but that it is still “constantly looking for resettlement opportunities for the people that the Labor Party left at Nauru and Manus”.
But since the Government claims that it has already stopped the boats, one Labor source is sceptical of the proposed ban.
“It’s up to the Government to explain why it is that this law is needed, given that they keep saying the boats have stopped,” said the source.
Even members of the Coalition aren’t sure about the policy, with Health Minister Sussan Ley put on the spot on the ABC’s Q&A last night, denying that the government’s asylum seeker policy would apply to people already living in Australia – a statement that contradicts those made by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.
The Government’s ban also applies to asylum seekers who settle in another country and later seek to enter Australia as tourists, but when asked if people on bridging visas living in Australia would be affected by the legislation, Ms Ley initially responded, “no”.
Q&A host Tony Jones was quick to correct Ms Ley, saying that when asked the same question, Peter Dutton’s office had responded “yes, the answer is yes … a relatively small number” would be affected, including those detained at the Manus Island or Nauru detention centres from July 19, 2013 who had returned home.
What do you think of the proposed new lifetime ban?