Nauru Designated For Regional Processing

Nauru has been officially designated a regional processing country under the Migration Act.

The formal action to put in place the government’s about-turn on processing of asylum seekers took place today with the tabling of the legislative instrument in the House of Representatives by the Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.

The Opposition maintained its position that Howard-era outcomes can only be achieved by the introduction of the full suite of Howard policies, including temporary protection visas and turning back the boats. Shadow minister Scott Morrison moved an amendment along these lines.

Statement released by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.

Nauru designated for regional processing

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, has this morning signed the legislative instrument designating the Republic of Nauru as a regional processing country under the Migration Act.

‘I will today table the designation documents in Parliament. Subject to both houses passing a resolution approving the designation, the designation will allow for the transfer of irregular maritime arrivals who arrived after 13 August to Nauru,’ Mr Bowen said.

‘These documents outline the terms of agreement with the Nauruan Government and the fact I have now designated Nauru as a regional processing country.’

The Minister has determined that it is in the national interest to begin transferring people to Nauru as set out in the Statement of Reasons, including:

  • Nauru has given Australia the assurances around the principle of non-refoulement and the assessment of asylum claims in line with the Refugee Convention
  • Designating Nauru as a regional processing country will discourage irregular and dangerous maritime voyages and thereby reduce the risk of the loss of life at sea
  • The designation promotes the maintenance of a fair and orderly Refugee and Humanitarian Program that retains the confidence of the Australian people
  • Designating Nauru as a regional processing country promotes regional cooperation on irregular migration and people smuggling and its undesirable consequences; and
  • Arrangements already in place in Nauru and those that are proposed to be put in place in Nauru are satisfactory.

The Memorandum of Understanding with the Nauruan Government was signed on 29 August. Construction work on the temporary facility is nearing completion and the government expects to be able to begin transferring people to Nauru later this week.

Mr Bowen said the government was committed to implementing the recommendations of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers.

‘The designation I have tabled today is the next step in implementing the Expert Panel’s recommendations,’ he said.

Further announcements about processing arrangements in Nauru will be made in due course.

Confusion, Timidity And Capitulation On Asylum Seekers

Late on Friday, twenty minutes after Republicans in the United States Senate agreed to a compromise proposal on a payroll tax extension, Air Force One lifted off to take US President Barack Obama to Hawaii for Christmas.

Asylum seekersIt was a near-miss. The president’s family had gone on ahead and Obama remained alone in the White House with the family’s dog for most of the week, sweating on a political deal with his strident opponents in the Congress.

Here, Julia Gillard went on holidays a week ago, leaving her deputy, Wayne Swan, and Immigration Minister Chris Bowen to slug it out with an equally strident Opposition on the perennial issue of asylum seekers.

Unlike Obama, Swan and Bowen left town on Friday with no hint of an agreement. The discussions were “cordial”, both sides agreed. Further talks are anticipated, but the Opposition made it clear the initiative must come from the Government.

On Christmas Eve, a boat carrying 116 passengers was intercepted off Christmas Island. It was the 69th boat to enter Australian territorial waters this year. The previous 68 carried 4,457 passengers. [Read more…]

Deadlock Over Asylum Seekers Remains Following Talks

No agreement was reached on the asylum seeker deadlock, following talks today between Labor and Liberal representatives.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd met with the Opposition’s shadow immigration minister Scott Morrison and shadow foreign minister Julie Bishop.

Both sides claimed the discussions were cordial and constructive. Further talks will take place in the coming weeks.

  • Scott Morrison comments before meeting with government ministers (3m)

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  • Chris Bowen comments following talks with Opposition members (2m)

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  • Scott Morrison comments following talks with government ministers (2m)

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  • Tony Abbott comments on asylum seeker policy in Melbourne (13m)

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Government Offers Nauru To Abbott In Return For Malaysia

The federal government has capitulated to Tony Abbott’s demand for a specific proposal on breaking the deadlock over asylum-seeker processing.

For the past week, the Opposition Leader has refused to authorise Scott Morrison to meet with Chris Bowen unless a proposal was put on the table.

Tonight the government has written to Abbott offering to implement the Malaysia arrangement and offshore processing on Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

The government’s decision was announced by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.

  • Listen to Chris Bowen:

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  • Listen to Senators Bob Brown & Christine Milne:

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  • Download Wayne Swan’s letter to Tony Abbott (PDF)
  • Download the previous exchange of letters between Gillard/Swan and Abbott (PDF)

Text of letter from Acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott:

ACTING PRIME MINISTER
22 DEC 2011

The Hon Tony Abbott MP
Leader of the Opposition
Parliament House
CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Mr Abbott

Thank you for your response to the Government’s further correspondence of 19 December 2011.

As you know, the Government has attempted three times to secure your agreement for discussions between Mr Bowen and Mr Morrison to examine opportunities to identify a mutually agreeable outcome on offshore processing. Those offers were made in good faith and clearly demonstrated the Government’s willingness to engage constructively with the Opposition on this matter. [Read more…]

Five Ways To Prevent More Asylum Seeker Tragedies

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How can we stop people putting themselves in peril?
AAP/Josh Jerga

Last weekend, an overcrowded fishing boat sank off the coast of Indonesia with more than 200 asylum seekers on board.

In Australia, the political blame game started soon after with both sides trying to get the upper hand in the controversial policy area.

Tony Abbott has been under pressure from Liberal party elders Alexander Downer and Philip Ruddock to reach a workable solution with the Gillard government, but the situation remains at an impasse.

As we begin to come to terms with the second major refugee boat disaster in less than 12 months, The Conversation asked key experts to take a considered look at the problem of refugees who risk the journey to Australia by boat.

We had two simple questions – what is the problem? And, most importantly, how can we do better?

This is what they told us.

[Read more…]

Political Stalemate Over Asylum Seekers

Bowen Calls On Abbott To Work With Government On Refugees

The Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, has attacked Tony Abbott for refusing to work with the government to resolve the refugee issue in the light of this week’s drownings off Indonesia.

Bowen said he believed “the Australian people have had a gutful of the politicking”. He said: “Now we have the frankly bizarre situation that Labor and Liberal, Government and Opposition, agree that we need offshore processing. And yet we have a political impasse. Legislation to authorise offshore processing would fail in the Senate because the Liberal Party would not support it.”

Bowen released an exchange of letters between the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Opposition Leader. In one of them, Abbott says: “I don’t see much point in further private discussions between Mr Morrison and Mr Bowen.”

  • Read the Gillard-Abbott letters (PDF)
  • Listen to Chris Bowen’s press conference – transcript below:

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  • Listen to Scott Morrison’s media conference – transcript below:

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  • Listen to Wayne Swan comment on Abbott’s reaction

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  • Listen to Greens leader Bob Brown comment

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Transcript of Immigration Minister Chris Bowen’s press conference.

Bowen: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

Well, Australians have witnessed another tragedy at sea. We’ve watched as men, women, children and babies have lost their life making the dangerous journey to Australia. The Government’s policy has been driven by the aim and the hope of avoiding these sorts of tragedies. We have been driven to pursue offshore processing to ensure that people don’t risk their life at sea.

And now we have the frankly bizarre situation that Labor and Liberal, Government and Opposition, agree that we need offshore processing. And yet we have a political impasse. Legislation to authorise offshore processing would fail in the Senate because the Liberal Party would not support it. [Read more…]

A Flurry of Activity – and it’s only January 7

The federal government and opposition have been busy today, even though it is only the first week of January.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been in Western Australia where she held a press conference about the education tax rebate and other issues. Click the PLAY button to listen to Gillard’s press conference:

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Back on the east coast, the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, and the shadow Finance spokesman, Andrew Robb, held a press conference to explain the coalition’s policy on investigating the construction of new dams. Abbott claimed that with two Sydney Harbours worth of water flowing past Rockhampton each day it’s time for a re-think on water management policy. Click the PLAY button to listen to Abbott and Robb.

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The Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, also held a press conference to announce the government’s response to the November 11 High Court decision on judicial review of asylum seeker applications. Click the PLAY button to listen to Bowen:

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Back in Western Australia, Gillard and the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese, announced the government’s National Ports Strategy at Kwinana. Click PLAY to listen to the press conference:

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It is unusual for so many political announcements to occur at this time of year. This reflects the government’s minority status in Parliament and the desire of the Opposition to maintain political pressure on the government.

Gillard Announces Cross-Party Group On Christmas Island Boat Wreck

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced a Standing Group of Government, Opposition and crossbench members will meet before the end of the year to receive information on the investigations into the wreck of an asylum-seeker boat off Christmas Island yesterday morning.

Gillard said a Western Australian coronial inquiry would take place into the disaster, in addition to a criminal investigation by the Australian Federal Police and investigations by Customs.

  • Listen to Gillard’s press conference:

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Howard Announces Changes To Detention Policy; Families With Children To Be Released

John Howard, Prime Minister of AustraliaThe Federal Government has announced changes to the immigration detention program, following negotiations with backbench Liberal members led by Petro Georgiou.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, speaking at a late-afternoon press conference, said mandatory detention will remain. “We will maintain our strong position on border protection, that is the excision of islands, the maintenance of offshore processing, and . . . the policy of turning boats around.” [Read more…]