News National Both sides of politics have a lot to answer for in deportation saga

Both sides of politics have a lot to answer for in deportation saga

Priya and Nadesalingam and their daughters. Photo: AAP
Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

It’s heartbreaking to see the images of the two Australian-born children Kopika, 4, and Tharunicaa, 2 being dragged onto a charter flight in darkness and flown to Christmas Island by the Morrison government.

Their ‘crime’ is that parents Priya and her husband Nadesalingam, who arrived by boat as asylum seekers seven years ago, have been found not to be refugees.

The heavy-handed approach of bundling the family onto a plane for deportation and then flying them to Christmas Island away from protesters is deplorable.

It is consistent, however, which is more than you can say for the alternative policy of cruelty being proposed by Anthony Albanese and Kristina Keneally.

Labor’s policy is to ban genuine refugees who arrive by boat from ever settling in Australia. But they want to make an exception for this family, who are not refugees, to remain?

It was Kevin Rudd who devised the ‘hardline’ policy that asylum seekers who arrive by boat will never settle in Australia, even if they are genuine refugees.

Since that declaration six years ago, thousands have paid the price of Labor’s ‘hard line’ and now it is proposing a new and inconsistent plot twist.

Labor’s shadow cabinet met in Sydney on Tuesday night but the inconsistent approach on this subject was not up for discussion.

As one Labor frontbencher summed it up after the meeting however, “our position is weird.”

Mr Albanese accepts that Priya and her husband Nadesalingam, are “economic refugees” and have not met the criteria of needing asylum. The parents have exhausted all avenues of appeal.

The calls for the Morrison government to use the “God powers’’ to make an exception for the family is based on the idea that they have Australian-born children and are integrated and much loved in the local community.

The arguments for mercy are backed by Barnaby Joyce and broadcaster Alan Jones.

But let us stop pretending that this case is exceptional.

There are thousands of asylum seeker families who have given birth to children in Australia and lived here for years.

If Labor wants to make an exception for this family, they should reconsider the policy as it stands for all other boat arrivals, including actual refugees.

It is a question of basic fairness.

The fact that Labor’s leadership team can’t see that shows poor judgment.

Senator Keneally’s decision to invoke Scott Morrison’s religion in relation to the asylum seeker question was also ill-advised.

When probed on this question, her answers were flimsy.

“Well the Prime Minister himself put his faith on public display as part of the election campaign, you know and as a Christian myself, as a Catholic, as a person who has long sought to explain really the values that I hold dear… I don’t like though to bring religion into political debate unnecessarily, but the Prime Minister introduced it,’’ she said.


Last week, she also provided running commentary on the NSW ALP donations scandal.

This raised eyebrows.

She previously employed the suspended ALP secretary Kaila Murnain and another staffer at ICAC, Kenrick Cheah, in her office, before they went to work at Sussex Street.

Senator Keneally was selected to run in the NSW seat of Bennelong by Ms Murnain, her biggest backer – she lost.

During that election she accused Malcolm Turnbull of being a “Chinaphobe” on the threat foreign influence. Meanwhile, her campaign helper Ms Murnain knew about a secret prohibited Chinese donor delivering Aldi bags of cash to head office.

Senator Keneally was also put into the Senate by Ms Murnain, who will not be in a position to offer that service in the future.

Senator Keneally remains an impressive media performer and a thoughtful person.

But she may wish to consider talking less and thinking more because it’s her constant commentary on everything that is going to get Labor into a big mess.