Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek has backed boat turn backs but pledged a Shorten government would “get people off Manus and Nauru” and boost Australia’s refugee intake.
Backflipping on her previous opposition to turning back asylum-seeker boats, Ms Plibersek confirmed she would back Bill Shorten’s policy ahead of next week’s ALP national conference.
Just three years ago, Ms Plibersek voted against boat turn backs at the ALP conference and claimed the policy had harmed Australia’s relationship with Indonesia.
Speaking on the ABC’s Q&A program Monday night, Ms Plibersek described boat turn backs as Labor’s “current policy” implying it could be changed at the ALP national conference. That is regarded as unlikely, with Mr Shorten expected to prevail.
She said that the Labor Party would “look at all of the policies we’ve got at the national conference”.
“But offshore processing and boat turn backs, yes I support current Labor policy,” Ms Plibersek said.
“But I also believe we can get people off Manus and Nauru. I believe we can bring more people here and bring them safely,” she added.
However, the Labor Party’s current policy does not include bringing refugees from Manus and Nauru to Australia for resettlement.
A spokesman for Ms Plibersek insisted Monday night she was referring to getting people off Nauru and Manus for resettlement in a third country – such as New Zealand – not Australia.
On Monday, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said Ms Plibersek was unfit to sit on the national security committee because she did not support boat turn backs.
In an olive branch to the Labor Party’s left wing, The New Daily understands that Mr Shorten will also announce a future increase to Australia’s refugee intake beyond 27,000 people a year by 2025.
Labor is also expected to re-endorse existing ALP policy to grant permanent protection and citizenship rights to more than 10,000 asylum seekers
The ALP is also set to debate a community-sponsored humanitarian visa to allow business, unions and community groups to sponsor refugees above and beyond the national cap.
“We should be able to bring more people to Australia. But we should bring them here on the safety of a Qantas jet,” Ms Plibersek told ABC TV Monday night.
“We shouldn’t put the people smugglers back in business, because that is not in anybody’s interest.”
Ms Plibersek also flagged an increase in foreign aid, arguing it allowed asylum seekers to stay with dignity.
“We will have a a good, strong debate because there are .., a very healthy diversity of views in the Labor Party,” she said.
“But I think there is something that unifies as all. We are all unified in the knowledge that Australia is a compassionate country and we should do more, we should do more as a good global citizen than we are doing currently.”
Greens leader Richard Di Natale said he agreed with the majority of what Ms Plibersek said.
“It’s not going to be much fun tonight because we seem to be agreeing a lot,” he said.
“Particularly the commitment to investing in our foreign aid budget.”
But MrDi Natale called for a royal commission into Australia’s offshore processing regime.
“Those refugee prisons need to be shutdown. We need a royal commission into this so this never happens again.”