Scott Morrison has attacked Anthony Albanese as a “flip-flop” leader on boat arrivals after Labor called for a family that does not qualify as refugees to stay in Australia.
Rejecting calls to use the “God powers” under Australian law for the Minister for Home Affairs to intervene, the Prime Minister said Anthony Albanese’s policy was inconsistent.
The parents, mother Priya and her husband Nadesalingam, arrived by boat separately as asylum seekers seven years ago.
They have two Australian-born children, Kopika, 4, and Tharunicaa, 2.
Mr Albanese concedes they are not “economic refugees”, not fleeing persecution but wants them to stay because they are employed and much loved in the local community.
Echoing new Liberal Party attack ads on social media, the Prime Minister said that Mr Albanese had said one thing before the election and was saying another thing afterward.
— Liberal Party (@LiberalAus) September 4, 2019
“The thing you will know about me on border protection is I am consistent,’ he said.
“When I say something, I mean it. I don’t go flip-flopping around to suit the particular opinions of the day.
“I mean, Anthony Albanese said in 2013 that if you came to Australia illegally by boat, then you should not be settled here, but then just in the past week, he’s changed his mind. Which is it?””
Kevin Rudd established the principle that asylum seekers who arrive by boat would not be settled in Australia in 2013, after he regained the leadership shortly before a federal election.
Mr Albanese backed the policy then and now, but wants an exception to be made for a Tamil family that settled in regional Queensland on temporary visas while their refugee claims were assessed.
“That is not how you run your borders,” he said.
“I am going to be consistent. Australians expect that of me and have always seen that from me and what they are seeing from Labor and others is flips-flops … and you cannot run your border based on flips-flops.”
Mr Albanese insisted his call for compassion for the family did not represent a “flip flop” or shift in Labor policy.
“No, it doesn’t, any more than the fact that Peter Dutton has intervened … on more than 4,000 occasions than the minister,” he said.
“Ministerial discretion is there so that if there are particular circumstances around a case, the minister can say it is in Australia’s interests for people to be granted a visa.
“Now, Peter Dutton is happy to do that for au pairs when someone has his number. He’s not happy to do it when a regional community is saying that this family is integrated into the community.”
Mr Albanese said the family are much loved in their local community.
“Priya was volunteering in St Vincent de Paul. Their little girls, 4 and 2, do not represent a threat to Australia’s security,” he said.