Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says the state of asylum seeker camps is “inhumane” and the government urgently needs an exit strategy to avoid people “rotting” in off-shore prisons.
Ms Hanson-Young was wearing a white t-shirt with the hashtag #letthemstay on the ABC’s Q&A panel on Monday night, in reference to a group of asylum seekers set to be deported from Australia by the government and returned to Nauru.
The High Court threw out a challenge to the Australian government’s immigration detention centre on Nauru.
The case was launched by a Bangladeshi detainee on Nauru who was brought to Australia for treatment and later gave birth to her daughter in Brisbane.
Thousands have rallied in support of the 270 asylum seekers, leaders of some religious institutions said they would open their doors to them, and state and territory leaders have written open letters to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pleading with him to ‘let them stay’.
“Don’t be mistaken here. The deterrence policy is designed to break people and to say ‘We’ll make it as difficult as possible so you give up’.
“I can tell you what, after 30 months, if they haven’t given up yet and gone home, and they’ve been assessed as refugees, that’s because they can’t. They can’t go home. We need to bring them to Australia and let them stay and get on with having a more humane approach to resettling.”
Meanwhile, conservative commentator and writer Mark Steyn said he was unsympathetic to the asylum seeker situation.
Ciobo versus Butler
Incoming Minister for Trade and Investment Steve Ciobo fired up and was on the defensive about the policy, engaging in a back-and-forth spat with Labor Member for Griffith Terri Butler.
“What third country is on offer? You had four people go to Cambodia, didn’t you? What is the third,” Ms Butler replied.
“If you were fleeing persecution, the opportunity to end up in another country where you are free of persecution…” Mr Ciobo said.
But Ms Butler cut him off saying: “What opportunity are you giving them? You have had people in camps for 30 months.”
“What’s your position?” Mr Ciobo asked.
“It is a disgrace,” she replied.
Government’s first slump in the polls
The Q&A panel discussed the Coalition’s first sharp slide in popularity – since Mr Turnbull became PM – as reported in a Fairfax-Ipsos poll on Sunday.
With an election expected later in 2016, whispers of superannuation reform, a boost in the GST to 15 per cent and privatisation of parts of Medicare appear to have unsettled the electorate.
The Coalition had enjoyed strong support since the sacking of Tony Abbott, but recent policy discussions and controversies have sapped the government of momentum, according to the poll.
It revealed a four-point two-party-preferred slide to 52, compared to Labor’s 48.
Chief political correspondent of The Guardian Lenore Taylor said she thought the polls were an indication
Ms Butler said the polls reflected the fact that Mr Turnbull said one thing and did another.
“He says one thing, does another. People are disappointed in that.
“Tony Abbott is someone who always stuck to his values, crazy as those values may have been from time to time.”
Labor calls for police inquiry into Stuart Robert saga
Mr Ciobo was on the defensive about embattled former minister Stuart Robert on Monday night.
The former Human Services Minister resigned on Friday after allegations he allegedly breached ministerial standards during a 2014 mission to China, where he tried to secure personal gain from a business trip.
Mr Ciobo said Labor wanted to see a police inquiry and was blowing the incident out of the water.
Ms Butler replied: “He did a specific deal with the Nationals.”