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Where does Labor stand?

By Tracie Aylmer

Yesterday I received a letter from Bill Shorten’s office.

It was in response to an email I sent both Mr Shorten and Mr Marles (Shadow Minister for Immigration and Border Protection). I had advised them both that the International Criminal Court was analysing Australia’s situation in relation to asylum seekers. As Labor have complied with many pieces of legislation that have denigrated the rights of the most disadvantaged in the Australian community, I thought it wise to explain to both that there could be a possibility that both may perhaps be named by the International Criminal Court with charges. Their responsibilities with how Border Force was enacted should not be underestimated. They did have a hand in much of how asylum seekers are now treated.

The letter I received kept talking about the boat turnbacks, mandatory detention and people smugglers. It appears that they are doing the LNP’s job. All of these topics sound exactly like the LNP’s rhetoric. Bill Shorten’s office seemed determined to continue the “Stop the Boats” rhetoric of the Abbott and Turnbull governments. In fact, not once did they comment about the Turnbull government, even though Malcolm Turnbull has been the prime minister for 7 months.

Even though Labor is promising to give the UNHCR many millions of dollars to enable them to do their work, this appears to be hollow. With the boat turnbacks, mandatory detention and talk about people smugglers, I doubt whatever efforts they think they could perhaps perform. Their promises look quite pithy.

It doesn’t take much to show humanity. It’s also much cheaper, and there aren’t any consequences that may occur at a later date. Labor could have shown some humanity. Instead, they are still stuck in the very recent past.

Here is their response to me:

Dear Ms Aylmer

Thank you for your correspondence to Mr Shorten regarding asylum seekers. Your thoughts on this important issue are noted and I have been asked to respond regarding Labor’s asylum seeker policy.

Labor recognises that we are a nation built on migration. We acknowledge and support the contribution of many diverse cultures to our society, recognising that Australian society is richer from the experience of migration, including the contributions of those Australians who came here as refugees or asylum seekers.

The issue of those seeking asylum in Australia is very complex. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of displaced people fleeing from war, conflict or persecution and looking for a better future in other countries is the highest since World War II. By the close of 2014 an estimated 59.5 million individuals were forcibly displaced around the globe as a result of persecution, conflict, violence and human rights violations. This is 8.3 million persons more than the previous year and the highest recorded annual increase in a single year.

Labor believes that Australia can do more to address this global humanitarian crisis. Labor believes in a compassionate approach to asylum seekers which enables refugees to progress their claims safely and securely.

At Labor’ National Conference, Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten and Shadow Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Richard Marles, unveiled Labor’s immigration policy which is centred on a humane and compassionate approach to asylum seekers, while maintaining appropriate deterrents to prevent people smugglers preying on some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

This policy is focussed on Australia playing a greater role in the world with respect to asylum seekers and ensuring that we play our part in reducing the sum of global human misery.

A Shorten Labor Government will provide significantly increased annual funding to the UNHCR for its global work program and its work in South East Asia and the Pacific. At a time when the global humanitarian need is greater than ever, Labor will provide $450 million over three years to support the important work of the UNHCR. This funding commitment would place Australia in the top five global contributors to the UNHCR and is something of which all Australians can rightly be proud.

Labor also plans to take a leadership role within South East Asia and the Pacific to build a regional humanitarian framework to improve the situation of asylum seekers.

A Labor Government would also increase Australia’s annual humanitarian intake to 27,000 by 2025. This is almost double the current intake under the Abbott Government of 13,750. As part of our commitment to demonstrating leadership in our region, a portion of the program will be dedicated to resettling refugees from the region.

In 2013, the former Labor Government implemented the Regional Resettlement Arrangement which severely restricted the ability of people smugglers in Indonesia to “sell” the journey to Australia. A future Labor Government will stand firm on maintaining a policy of offshore processing to keep this perilous boat journey shut.

However, this does not mean that Labor believes these facilities should be run as punitive holding cells. The processing facilities on Manus Island and Nauru must be humane and offer people seeking safety exactly that.

Labor will also empower the Commonwealth Ombudsman to provide independent oversight of Australia’s onshore detention network and will continue to ensure that those working in the immigration system enjoy the benefit of whistleblower protections to speak out about any maladministration and corruption.

In the almost two years since the last federal election, it has become abundantly clear that the combination of offshore processing and regional resettlement, together with the policy of turning back boats, has stopped the flow of vessels arriving on our shores. None of these strategies could have succeeded in isolation but together they have ended a human tragedy. Provided it can be done so safely, a future Labor Government will retain the option of turning boats around. This is a difficult decision but one which will save hundreds, ultimately thousands, of lives.

I understand this is an option that can be hard for some people to accept. But what characterised this journey were people smugglers who made huge profits with the result that 1200 people drowned on our border. A future Labor Government cannot and will not allow this human tragedy to unfold ever again.

Labor is absolutely committed to protecting the interests of children within the immigration detention system and will provide a strong independent voice within government to advocate for the interests of children seeking asylum. A Labor Government will appoint an advocate, independent of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, backed by the resources and statutory powers necessary to pursue the best interests of those children, including the power to bring court proceedings on a child’s behalf.

This will not reduce the Minister’s obligations in relation to unaccompanied non-citizen children or the ability of other interested parties to take court action against the Minister. The independent children’s advocate will have access to all unaccompanied minors in detention and in the community to ensure their rights and interests are protected. In government Labor will legislate to impose mandatory reporting of child abuse in all offshore and onshore immigration detention facilities.

Finally, Labor will restore fast and fair processing of asylum claims for those people already living in Australia. This will see us reinstate references to the UN Refugees Convention in the Migration Act to reverse the Abbott Government’s retrograde efforts to undermine international law. We will reinstate access to the Refugee Review Tribunal and abolish the Independent Assessment Authority established by the Abbott Government.

A Labor Government would be focussed on removing people from detention as soon as possible, in particular children and their families.

We will abolish Temporary Protection Visas, which keep people in a permanent state of limbo, and place those found to be genuine refugees on permanent protection visas.

Under the former Labor Government there was a statutory requirement for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to report on how many claims were processed within 90 days of a completed application being received. The Abbott Government abolished this. Labor in Government will reintroduce the ‘90 day rule’ into the Migration Act.

This package will provide for Australia to play the largest role it ever has in tackling the refugee crisis facing the world. At the same time it will prevent people dying at sea.

In sum, this policy is all about opening Australia’s door wider, bringing more refugees here, but doing so safely.

Thank you on behalf of the Opposition Leader for taking the time to raise your concerns.

For more information please visit

Yours sincerely
Shawn Lambert
Office of the Leader of the Opposition
22 April 2016


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  1. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Thanks Tracie,

    for sharing.

    Labor must have missed the golden rule that “one cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”! Despite the comparable improvements raised in this letter of Labor over the LNP Degenerates, they fail to consider and understand the despair WE know is happening right now in our name and under our noses. Labor, to its shame and stupidity, still doesn’t get this!

    Labor’s me-tooism on asylum seeker bashing has been an embarrassment to all decent Labor supporters. It has also been the reason why there are many ex-Labor supporters now looking for humane, electable alternatives in the Greens, Progressive micro-parties and sane Independents.

    PS The writer also can’t count as seen with, “In the almost two years since the last federal election”! Such laziness when writing serious, formal letters always annoys me!

  2. David

    Tracie thank you for publishing the reply in full. It I have to say, does make ‘some’ progressive and improving points which Labor are adding to their policy, somewhat better than the current Govts evil detention treatment and imprisonment of Asylum Seekers.

    I believe Labor will never treat those seeking a safe better way of life from the evils in their home countries as is being done currently by the Torys. Like yourself I would prefer if those seeking asylum were not detained offshore at all, however coming by boat is a nono. Its is inviting death as is being proved in Europe and under Labors watch at Christmas Island. If that was to happen again we would never get rid of this Govt.

    There will be no dramatic change from Labor until after the election there first task is to win it and as much as we don’t like it, it would be fatal when they have made up so much ground to announce they are scrapping all the Govts Immigration policies as per Asylum Seekers.
    The guts of the matter is all about votes. i share the hatred of the conditions on Manus and Nauru, I have indicated that many times here. But common sense tells me nothing will change until after the election. Lets get them elected, then will be the time to put the pressure on , adopting any other course at this stage will merely play into the Govts hands and that is unthinkable.

    I’ll cop some stick for taking this stance, So be it I’ll survive..

  3. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    One question, David. What do you think those European refugees should have done instead of going by boat? Stay in Syria and be bombed to death?

    Labor cannot be trusted with just winning the election. Labor is a leopard that has not, so far in the current mindset, proven it can change its spots. So believing Labor is the reason to vote for them and then TRUST Labor to do the right thing by asylum seekers and refugees is very gullible and misrepresentative of current realities.

    Decent Labor insiders should be advocating this message to the hierarchy before it’s too late to reclaim disenchanted Labor voters!

  4. Coralie Naumann

    I think this letter is old. But the message is still clear.

  5. kerri

    Agree with you Jennifer Meyer Smith!
    Good article Tracey and thanks for doing the work for so many of us.

  6. nurses1968

    I don’t think Asylum seekers will rate much of a mention in this election with all the major parties {Coalition,Labor,Greens] advocating off shore processing varying degrees of resettlement and/or return home policy

  7. Garth

    Thanks Tracie for posting for everyone’s info.
    So we can put the response in proper context is it possible for you to post the text of your initial email?
    Thanks again

  8. Jennifer Meyer-Smith


    your post is bullshit like usual.

    Are you merely a troll?

  9. Garth

    @nurses1968….and it never will unless well intentioned people like Tracie (and most here), stand up and demand change. We are all allowed an opinion in a democracy and there is one thing we can be sure of, and that’s without a lot of noise, and sense, from the electorate, political expediency will win out.
    I’m not sure of your sources on Greens policy though, they definitely DON’T support off shore detention/processing (in its current regime).

  10. Jaquix

    My thoughts are those of Davids. I thought the reply was comprehensive, though I would have liked it to have been stronger in relation to Nauru and Manus. The secrecy and way they are being run is not acceptable. Abbott begrudgingly agreed to accept 12,000 displaced Syrians, yet apparently only 29 have arrived. Canada and NZ have acted and their refugees arrived. Dutton and Co are obviously dragging the chain because they have no humanity whatsoever. Those people had already been pre-screened. I can see that this issue is divisive and “hard to please” everyone. Best dealt with after the election. Labor is much more likely to improve things than the other lot.

  11. Jennifer Meyer-Smith


    just coz Rabid’s response was inadequate as expected and so the Turnbull replacement, why do you settle for Labor’s inadequate response too?

    LNP are monsters and Labor are beige pretenders.

  12. nurses1968

    Jennifer Meyer-Smith
    What are you waffling on about?
    You should check your facts BEFORE you run off at the mouth, as what I wrote is correct
    The Greens who you seem to stooge for said this, In an article written by Sarah Hanson Young some months ago

    “We need to work with the UN to set up processing centres in Indonesia and Malaysia and then, when we know who needs protection and who doesn’t, we take those in need and send the others home”

    .”Sarah Hanson Young

  13. Miriam English

    Thanks Tracie. Important topic.

    Apologies for the long reply. This really touches a nerve with me.

    It amazes me that Labor happily go along with the insane LNP stand on this. Perhaps Abbott managed to stir up the hornet’s nest of racists in our society sufficiently that Labor got too scared to cross them, but that’s not a good reason to accede to evil.

    As other commenters have noted, there are some improvements, but to keep the main pillar of concentration camps is awful, and to use the Abbott rationalisation is repellent. The LNP never stopped the boats. They just stopped them being reported, and turned them back so they drowned elsewhere.

    When they imprison people in concentration camps in order to deter others risking a watery grave from the dangerous sea voyage, it displays the same broken thinking that puritans always do.

    It is how puritans screw things up so badly with the idiotic “war on drugs”. They say they don’t want people risking themselves in drug use, so on order to deter them they impose awful penalties that ruin those people’s lives. The fact that this doesn’t make any sense seems to completely escape their attention.

    Take, for example, the stupid approach to spirits available from hardware supplies. In order to stop alcoholics buying it they used to add finely crushed glass to it, which could kill or badly damage you. However alcoholics might be messed up with their addiction, but they’re not stupid. Filter paper easily strained the glass out. But the puritans were not to be outdone, so they required instead that methyl alcohol (methanol) be added to it make it methylated spirits. This gave the puritans great satisfaction because now anybody drinking the stuff would potentially be blinded, stop breathing, have seizures, collapse into coma, or just flat-out die. Of course it doesn’t actually stop everybody from drinking it, but it lets the puritans wash their hands of those so poisoned and gives a peculiar kind of vampiric satisfaction in the downfall of those seeking pleasures. (Puritans hate pleasure in all its forms, especially sexual, drug-induced, non-sedate dancing, loud and excessively rhythmic music, brightly colored pictures or clothes or hair, and so on.)

    Labor have bought into the same broken thinking.

    Here is an analogy that will make it clear. Imagine the refugees as car drivers and those who drown at sea as the victims of the road toll. They are saying that they would save people from dying in road accidents by deterring people from driving cars and that the best way to do this is to lock them up in intolerable concentration camps where the women and children are raped weekly and the men have the snot beaten out of them from time to time.

    Sure. This is a sane and proportional approach to the road toll.
    NO! This is lunacy!

    How the hell has it been sold to us as any kind of a reasonable action?

    The road toll can be improved by encouraging safer alternatives, like cheap or free public transport and safer cars, and by raising public awareness of the dangers of driving. Applying this to refugees it is easy to see the best way to stop people dying: encourage safer alternatives, like cheap or free plane and ship transport, and heavily publicise the deaths. We already give some free plane journeys to small numbers of refugees, I think. This should be extended.

    But… Oh Noes! Everybody will want to come here!
    Firstly, no. Not everybody. Secondly, this is why it is a good idea to genuinely work to increase standards of living in neighboring countries. Don’t give pitifully small amounts of aid, and don’t make that aid principally benefit corrupt Australian businesses and corrupt foreign businesses. It needs to be genuine aid that delivers maximum bang for buck, with open, measurable results for the ordinary people. Micro-loans, solar panels, LED lights, clean water, low-cost computing, local food, effective courses for kids and adults, and so on. Make their lives sufficiently good that they don’t need to come here. And for goodness sake don’t go bombing places we have no right to interfere in, displacing a tsunami of people.

    The easiest way to strip the government’s (and Labor’s) attitude of its fake concern is to see what happens when you move the concentration camps to Australia. Not possible. Because the mistreatment would be challenged under Australian law. To do horrible things to people under the pretence of “helping” them, it has to be done in another country.

    Now you see why offshore processing is necessary. They must be made to suffer greatly and that can’t be done inside Australia. Puritans love to make people suffer, even if they protest that they don’t — they always say “it’s for their own good”. Well, it’s not true. We don’t need to hurt people. We can help them instead.

    How about, as a start, we take the billions we spend on the awful concentration camps and put it into genuine foreign aid for the most vulnerable.

  14. Miriam English

    nurses1968, you are partially correct. The Greens do advocate setting up refugee processing in other countries, but my understanding is that they would be offices where claims would be checked (not concentration camps) and the real refugees would then be flown or shipped to Australia safely.

  15. metadatalata

    Nurses 1968, you cannot compare the Greens plan to process asylum seekers in Indonesia or Malaysia to LNP and Labor’s concentration camps on Nauru and Manus Islands. There is absolutely no scrutiny of the current arrangements and we know the current policy is resulting in deaths, rapes, mutilations and mental disorders which are directly the result of LNP immigration policy.
    The Greens proposal of processing asylum seekers before they attempt a boat journey to Australia is a humane solution as opposed to the barbaric solution currently in place.
    Really your attempt to group the Greens policies with Labor and LNP are deceiving. Akin to Murdoch media journos and trolls.

  16. nurses1968

    Miriam English
    Where did you glean that information so I could check?
    If Offices were set up for processing in Indonesia and Malaysia, where would the asylum seeker stay while that processs is taking place?
    I would like to be able to verify that, otherwise, the Greens policy, as outlined by Hanson Young is offshore processing,some resettlement, whereabouts unknown, and others sent home.

  17. nurses1968

    “you cannot compare the Greens plan to process asylum seekers in Indonesia or Malaysia to LNP and Labor’s concentration camps on Nauru and Manus Islands”
    Then, can you tell me the Greens plan for Malaysia and Indonesia and method of operation?

  18. Marilyn Beech

    I attended a talk by Greens Leader Richard Di Natale at the State Theatre in Perth, in October 2015, at which he said Greens policy was to interview and assess those refugees and asylum seekers who were already in Indonesia and Malaysia THERE. Australia would establish and resource offices in the places asylum seekers had come to, and fly those who were found to be refugees to Australia, thereby negating the attraction of making the journey to Australia by boat.

    I agree it’s important that this policy in print should be readily available for scrutiny before the election.

    Greens policy can be found online at

    Some important relevant details include –

    19. Restoration of the Australian migration zone to match Australia’s territory and acceptance of responsibility for assessing all asylum claims of people who seek Australia’s protection within the migration zone.
    20. Asylum seekers to be fully informed of their rights on arrival and given immediate access to legal support and health assistance.
    21. The current system of humanitarian visas (granted only by ministerial discretion) to be replaced with an open, accountable humanitarian visa assessment.
    22. Assessment of applications for asylum completed in a timely and transparent manner.
    23. Refugees to be treated with dignity, including within the terminology is used by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
    24. The elimination of mandatory and indefinite detention and the abolition of offshore processing (where an asylum seeker or refugee is returned from Australian territory to another nation to be assessed) and other forms of punitive or discriminatory treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.
    25. Once initial health, security and identity checks are completed within a maximum of 30 days, asylum seekers who arrive without a valid visa to be accommodated in the community, unless otherwise ordered by a court, with periodic judicial review thereafter.
    26. All people categorised as refugees, but given negative security assessments by ASIO, to be given reasons for such assessment and the opportunity to challenge this in the appropriate forum.
    27. Asylum seekers to have work rights, and access to social security, legal representation, interpreters, health services, case management, and appropriate education for the duration of their assessment.
    28. Where an asylum seeker is not found to be owed protection, provision of fair and appropriate accommodation until they can be repatriated. Where a person is stateless, provision of accommodation in the community until they are issued with a visa or another durable solution is found.

  19. Kate M

    Thanks for sharing Tracie. I was hoping that Labor would lift their game on this issue. But they haven’t. Disappointing.

  20. paul walter

    Just a brief observation re JMS and Nurses 68 early. I think JMS is absolutely right to vent her frustrations, but Nurses is merely making an observation.

    That observation is that the public, fears massaged by msm, still retains atavistic remnants of a desire for a return to stable, rational government. The sort of government I’m thinking of provides a platform for rational change involving a preparedness to take on effective banking re regulation, instigate realist enviro policy and a confonting of harsh labour market policies and valorised offshoring and tax dodging.

    But Labor has learned too well the cost of standing up to the System, even on minor and rational reforms, when the likes of Murdoch have such a grip on the public’s mind.

    To many people it seems crazy to advocate for population growth when Globalisation seems intent on inducing economic decline here, even when it comes to the issue of profoundly desperate and brutalised refugees.

    JMS, I felt for your comment. As with so much of world and its many problems, solutions are available, but log-jammed by myopic and greedy Oligarchy and its legions of bought-off lackeys.

  21. Trish Corry

    Before people want to start trying to make out Greens are so much better than Labor on Asylum seeker policy. Sit down and do an actual compare and contrast on both. The Greens have copied many elements of Labor’s Asylum Seeker policy.

    The Facts from Labor are very simply:

    Labor supports off shore processing as a deterrent to people smugglers that encourage people to take the journey and drown. (If you prefer to just allow people to just come to our shores by boat, you simply must accept that risk that people will die. It is not one of those, they are being mean on purpose policies, or this is just a rubbish media ploy, or they will be right, they won’t drown – it is an actual historical fact – they will drown and have drowned. If you do not want offshore processing, that is the other solution, without third country processing.)

    There are approx 60 million displaced people in the world. How many people do we accept as a country coming to us uncontrolled by boat to onshore? 10 million? 20 million? What is the responsibility to OUR citizens with massive uncontrolled migration? What about the affects of our infrastructure, resources and capacity to assist people? What is our ability to control diseases from other countries with uncontrolled migration? We may as well let all the Pistol and Boo dogs in that we like, as our quarantine laws will mean nothing.

    Third country processing – Labor will fund third countries to process onshore (hopefully Indonesia can be set up) by pumping lots of money into the UNHCR. (This will mean that people will not need to get on a boat between Indonesia and Australia in the long term.)

    The other option is that we just fly people into Australia from Indonesia. But then what people must advocate for is who is the most important? Ones who have been languishing in a UNHCR camp somewhere in another country, or those who are closer and who have paid someone to come by boat? Is it only the people who are near to our country that we should care about? Labor putting more funding into UNCHR will see ALL people resettled sooner.

    Labor will introduce transparency and remove the secrecy that has shrouded the offshore camps. This will enable people like Ms. Hanson Young, if she does retain her seat, and the media to have access to these camps. Transparency can only bring about improvements to these camps. Labor is committed to humane and transparent processing and do not need to do it in secrecy – that should speak volumes to people – but sadly it does not. People just get stuck on the Greens versus Labor mantra.

    Labor will also reintroduce the refugee tribunal – which the Liberals abolished and also full access to legal, medical and psych – which does not exist at the moment. Labor is committed to quick processing.

    If people were in offshore for a short period of time, treated humanely and processed to resettle quickly in a transparent manner so the public knew they were being treated humanely and processed quickly, what is the actual problem? That we didn’t do it on our shores?

    If Labor funding UNHCR camps so people can be processed quicker onshore in other countries closer to where they have fled (ones that don’t get on boats), and Australia takes a larger amount of those people? What is the actual problem? That we didn’t process them on our shores?

    This is an extremely complex issue and many countries around the world are struggling with trying different solutions. Do people see this? Or turning a blind eye? If there was an easy fix solution, all countries would have adopted it. Labor has bipartisan support with the Liberals on Offshore processing, because people do drown, but that is where the comparison ends. If you map out Labor and Greens there are more similarities between Labor and Greens on this policy than with the Liberals. But so many people have so much difficulty with grasping that basic concept or they don’t want to do the actual work – just complain about it, and I find that really, really frustrating. Offshore does not have to equal inhumane treatment. Labor took Gillian Trigg’s report extremely seriously and developed a NEW policy adopted at conference.

    I’m sick and tired of this being some sort of petty war between Greens voters and Labor voters, when so many people haven’t even bothered mapping out the policies. People also need to realise that the Greens have ONE SEAT in the lower house. They will not Govern. It is the same as speaking about PUP policies as if his party would Govern, or Katters. They have the same amount of seats in the Lower house where Government is formed. Politics is not a game. This election is the most important election we will have since Gough Whitlam breaking years and years of conservative rule.

    There are improvements that can be pushed to a Party in Power by the People for the change that people want to see. BUT THIS PARTY CANNOT MAKE CHANGE UNLESS IN POWER (Caps for emphasis as I don’t have bold). These changes could be like moving people onshore as quickly as possible to wait for resettlement into billeting programs, after health and security checks have been done. etc.,

    However, by putting Greens ahead of Labor on this issue on the actual voting card, there is a risk of returning the Coalition and that would be the worst thing for Asylum seekers as far as I am concerned. Some people have been there in offshore camps for almost three years.

  22. Florence nee Fedup

    Truth is political insecurity in both Nauru and PNG isn’t going to allow present situation to continue much longer. They have process very few, deliberately since coming to power onshore. Truth is the government’s present policy is slowly unwinding.

  23. JJ

    Thanks Trish Corry, a good post.

  24. Ross Cornwill

    The Greens can say what they want, or even more appropriate to what they think we want to hear. They will never win power on their own so that is their stance.

  25. paul walter

    The Howard Wedge continues apace: racial fears exploited (mossie bashing is a symptom) with the left-of- right hopeless divided, is something the reactionaries would be delighted with, since brutality and the ramping up of outrage accentuates the polarisation of our community. The 60 Minutes gutza offered a rare glimpse into the dark side of consent manufacture, of course.

    I think Trish Corry talks sense in the last post I’m reading, but the obscenities of sadism and corruption induced through paralysed government here make protest inevitable: in fact, the pressured inaction and its response from people concerned at the suffering and the implications of the policy universalised, slippery slope, is a symptom of our “captured” system.

    Btw Ross Cornwill, that sort of remark is unconstructive, the sort of thing that perhaps Corry was getting at, as to the sterility of Labor/Greens bickering, from both sides.

  26. David

    Trish well written. I wonder how many critics of Labors far more enlightened Asylum Seeker policy than this bastard Govt, have actually read it word for word. It is a difficult position for an Opposition coming back from a thumping of a defeat. I just wish their critics who abandon the party would read their policy and wait.
    Of course its a simple proposition, vote for Labor or don’t and return this present disgusting rabble, who will take the victory as a full acceptance of their cruelty.and continue to demonise Asylum Seekers far more than a Labor Govt could possibly.. Decision is an easy one for me.

  27. Michael Taylor

    I’m disappointed that Labor won’t consider on-shore processing. I’m voting for them regardless. But if they treat refugees as bad as the Abbott/Turnbull governments have . . . Well, let’s wait and see.

  28. Terry2

    Many of us wish that Labor would come out and break the stand-off over Manus and Nauru and reveal the fiction of these camps being processing centres : how long does it take to process these people.

    The difficulty is that as soon as Labor, while they are not in office, say that they would empty the offshore camps, resettle the unfortunate people being used a political pawns and close these centres, the wrath of the right wing and Murdoch media would overwhelm rational discussion and Labor would be consigned to political oblivion.

    However, once in office the narrative can quickly change.

  29. OzFenric

    If the major parties are in unison on their advocated policies on asylum seekers and boat arrivals, then it is *our fault*. Admittedly, not most of those reading this blog, but the Australian people as a whole. Bipartisan policy doesn’t come about by accident: it reflects what the majority of voters want. Labor’s polling and past election results, not to mention the amount of bludgeoning on the issue they copped from Tony Abbott and his cronies, tells them that there are way more votes to lose by opposing the Government’s policy than there are to win. Despite the fact that some of us – and, make no mistake, some members of Labor’s caucus – feel passionately that a different position should be taken, the pragmatic political conclusion is that offshore processing stays. Just look at how Labor’s policy position has blunted the government’s most potent attacks, to the point that refugee policy is barely mentioned in political discussions. There is no chance that Labor will change their policy before the majority of Australians change their mind – NONE.

    The absolute *most* that we can hope for is a piece-by-piece re-evaluation where Labor’s more compassionate voices can quietly influence the direction. The policies listed in the letter to Ms Aylmer seem like a very good start. But this kind of change can only occur from government – the Opposition is powerless in this respect. Rather than castigating Labor for not adopting a blazing policy that will see them in the wilderness for another term or two, we would do better to support them and direct our arguments at our colleagues and neighbours. Until we change the minds of those in our workplaces and social circles, we will see no change from Labor. And that’s entirely proper: democracy in action.

  30. Kyran

    Imagine, for a minute, the enormous ramifications of Ms Aylmer’s quest. There is an increasingly real risk that the ICC will pursue the ‘situation’, beyond analysis and convene a hearing. If I understand this correctly (always happy to be corrected), Australian politicians could be facing the ICC.
    Whether it be Howard’s actions in the initial bombing of Iraq or subsequent politicians actions in breaching human rights conventions to address the flood of refugee’s created by those very bombs, this is a massive ‘legal’ precedent. My understanding is that the ICC is a ‘court of last resort’, usually reserved for third world countries devoid of a functioning legal process.
    That is a legal process and it a matter for national shame that this ‘situation’ is happening.
    Putting that aside for the minute, much of the article and most of the comments detail the various political response to this ‘situation’. Whether it be Hockey disingenuously blubbering in parliament about his last breath or Gillard bemoaning her sleep being disturbed by ‘that phone call’ advising of another tragic, needless loss of life, I no longer waste a second contemplating the conscience of our politicians.
    This is not a political problem.
    This is a humanitarian problem, caused by political/corporate acts of bastardry.
    There are many well researched proposals that would address the very real humanitarian problem. Maybe not entirely, but, at the very least, significantly. It is worthy of mention that the last time such a significant refugee problem occurred was after WW2. All the way back then, leaders around the globe dealt with it. As long as we allow the politicians to continuously redefine this a political issue, with faux concern for the welfare of the refugee’s THEY CREATED, it seems we have little option but to pursue a legal course, in the hope that these mealy mouthed, self serving charlatans will at least have to face some questions.
    Ms English’s analogy about the road toll is particularly striking. I would add that we seem determined to make sure the refugees get only un-roadworthy vehicles.
    The protest on Nauru is now in its 35th day. If you want first hand accounts of what we are doing, right now, to innocent victims and the duplicitous actions of our government, have a look at;
    There is a link to their facebook page on the site.
    Our politicians express concern for the loss of life at sea but see no problem with the survivors of the voyages choosing to self harm or suicide rather than endure their torture. Take your politicians, your political parties and your apologies/justifications for their action/inaction and stick it where the sun don’t shine.
    Apologies for the aggression. More strength to your arm, Ms Aylmer. Take care

  31. Jennifer Meyer-Smith


    you can have my vote.

  32. Backyard Bob

    I note with a certain amount of bemusement that both the Greens and Labor seem to think they can control what happens in other countries, especially countries that have shithouse humanitarian records. The Greens policy has a lot of lovely sounding sentiments in it, as does Labor’s, but there are many unanswered questions:

    27. Asylum seekers to have work rights, and access to social security, legal representation, interpreters, health services, case management, and appropriate education for the duration of their assessment.

    Really? Indonesia and Malaysia? Malaysia is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and lacks a legislative and administrative framework to address refugee matters. As all asylum-seekers and refugees are treated as irregular migrants, and in the absence of any substantive engagement by the authorities, UNHCR remains the principal actor in providing international protection.

    i.e. asylum seekers can only be afforded “rights” if they’re being detained in UNHCR camps, and even then limited by what Malaysia will allow. Social security? Legal rights? Education? Yeah, pull the other one, it plays Frankie Ford’s epic version of Gone.

    I’m not interested in Australian political parties trying to lure with me with high sounding sentiments that lack pragmatic sense and substance. Don’t tell me the things you can do for asylum seekers in nations you cannot actually control. You sound like this current Government with respect to PNG and Nauru when you do that.

    Fly claimants here. Process them here. Raise the “general” refugee intake to 50,000. Afford them their rights under the Convention and cut the crap.

    How many people do we accept as a country coming to us uncontrolled by boat to onshore? 10 million? 20 million?

    It’s truly sad to see Labor voices mouthing this sort of rubbish. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect from the Toothless Reclaim Australia Bogan-Central Brigade.

    What is our ability to control diseases from other countries with uncontrolled migration?

    “Uncontrolled migration”. Ah yes, the Strawman cometh. Run Eddie, run….

  33. Kyran

    Cheers, Ms Meyer-Smith. I may have to share it with ByB.
    “Fly claimants here. Process them here. Raise the “general” refugee intake to 50,000. Afford them their rights under the Convention and cut the crap.”
    Take care

  34. diannaart

    Thanks Tracie

    I have never received such a detailed and long response to my letters from any pollie – well done you.

    However, I got to the part where Shawn Lambert stated “The issue of those seeking asylum in Australia is very complex” and my brain flashed the warning: OBFUSCATION AHEAD.

    As usual, my brain was right.

    It is cheaper, faster and more humane to assess refugees on shore – well it was until Labor and LNP made it all very complicated.

  35. Backyard Bob

    Um, just to put this in perspective:

    Jane Salmon
    Killara NSW 2071

    Dear Jane
    Thank you for your email to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten regarding Labor’s approach to asylum seekers. Mr Shorten appreciates you taking the time to write and I have been asked to respond.
    The contribution that migration has made to Australia needs to be properly acknowledged. We are a nation built on migration. The fabric of Australian society is richer from the experience of migration, including the contributions of those Australians who came here as refugees or asylum seekers.

    The issue of those seeking asylum in Australia is very complex. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of displaced people fleeing from war, conflict or persecution and looking for a better future in other countries is the highest since World War II. By the close of 2014 an estimated 59.5 million individuals were forcibly displaced around the globe as a result of persecution, conflict, violence and human rights violations. This is 8.3 million persons more than the previous year and the highest recorded annual increase in a single year.

    Labor believes that Australia can do more to address this global humanitarian crisis. Labor believes in a compassionate approach to asylum seekers which enables refugees to progress their claims safely and securely.

    Etc etc etc etc blah blah blah …

    Yours sincerely
    Shawn Lambert
    Office of the Leader of the Opposition
    16 November 2015

    In other words, it’s a stock, albeit large reply.

  36. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Hence Lambert’s stuff-up in Tracie’s letter with the time calculation since the previous election.

  37. Backyard Bob


    Exactly. It’s a touch disappointing but hardly unexpected.

  38. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    I’ve been disappointed in Labor for 3 1/2 decades so I suppose I’m used to it.

  39. Backyard Bob

    Mind you, in defense of Bill Shorten with regard to the “stock” nature of the response – it has to be, really, unless a letter they receive contains new and unexpected material. I mean, how many letters do they get per week? My issue is with the weakness I perceive in the policy statements. For me they contain too many wafty “mission statement” style claims that they are unlikely to be able to fulfill.

    I want concrete not fairy floss.

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