News National Q&A: Why limit refugee intake to 10,000, Baird asks
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Q&A: Why limit refugee intake to 10,000, Baird asks

Tony Abbott Mike Baird. AAP
The battle for pre-selection also pits moderate Liberals against the party's right. Photo: AAP
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NSW Premier Mike Baird has suggested Australia could take more than 10,000 refugees fleeing the crisis in the Middle East.

To do this, Mr Baird – a popular figure who has advocated for an increased intake of refugees from Europe – urged Australians to give the Federal Government more time to formulate a plan for the crisis.

Speaking on ABC’s Q&A program on Monday night, he said doing so might reveal we could take more than Labor’s proposed 10,000 number.

“The question is how many more?” he said. “How do you know it’s just 10,000?

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“How do you know it shouldn’t be more? And this is my point.

“It is very easy and very simple to put a number on it, but what can we actually do? Can we do more than that. Who is to say we can’t do more?”

Host Tony Jones pushed Mr Baird to specify a number or commit to a total increase quota on refugees from Syria and Iraq coming to Australia, however he would not be drawn into a concrete answer. 

Mr Baird’s reply heaped further pressure on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to do more in response to the crisis.

On Sunday and Monday, Mr Abbott made commitments to lift Australia’s intake of refugees fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq.

However it appears that his preference, as it stands, is to only have a greater percentage of Australia’s 13,750 yearly refugee intake devoted to Syrians and Iraqis.  

International human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson was similarly open minded: “10,000? We should be taking 30,000 at least.

“The message is no country is an island, not even Australia.

“These grandchildren of the Gestapo are now the angels of mercy,” he said, heaping praise on Germany’s response to the crisis in throwing open its borders.   

Earlier in the program, Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen pushed for instant action: “We should increase our intake immediately and urgently.”

“We’ve suggested 10,000 as an immediate intake, and increase our intake and all people affected by the Syrian crisis,” he said. 

GST is ‘a very efficient tax’

Earlier in 2015, Mr Baird suggested the Federal Government should consider lifting GST from 10 per cent to 15 per cent, and on Monday he expanded on the idea.

“We have pressing needs in relation to our health services in particular,” he said.

“And in terms of a fiscal cliff, it is the biggest challenge. If the competitiveness of Australia is maintained, put the balance towards health funding that big expenditure needs.

“You look after those who haven’t got the capacity to afford it.”

Mr Robertson then made interjections, taken as comment: “Why don’t you have to pay GST on Viagra but you do on tampons?”

He asked: “What about all the promises that the state premiers made back when John Howard introduced GST?

“That they would take the money and they would abolish land tax, sales tax?”

Back on the debate on the GST increase, Mr Bowen refused to agree with Mr Baird.

“We are here, Mike, because your PM cut $80 billion out of your budget and didn’t even make a telephone call to tell you, and now we are paying it,” Mr Bowen said.

“You said you would fight those $80 billion worth of cuts all the way and now you’re not fighting them and, you are just saying you will increase the GST.”

‘Political cowardice’ prevents euthanasia

Helen Joyce, editor of The Economist, a magazine that’s campaigned strongly for euthanasia to be legalised, spoke strongly for the practice.

She was prompted by a question from a man with a terminal illness who asked: “Why am I forced to go through that torture?”

Ms Joyce said: “People don’t have to do this. It is a human right, we feel, and a choice that people wake and we feel the reason why people aren’t allowed to do it is political cowardice.

“There are places already doing this and it has not led to the sort of disaster that the fear-mongers have suggested it will. These are individual choices.”

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