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Nauru or Malaysia? Offshore or Onshore? The d -

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Nauru or Malaysia? Offshore or Onshore? The debate continues

Broadcast: 20/09/2011

Reporter: Chris Uhlmann

A look at the current status of the immigration debate.


LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Another day in Canberra, another round of the major parties trading abuse
over asylum seeker policy.

The Government says Tony Abbott's acting out of self-interest in not supporting its push to
rekindle the so-called Malaysia solution.

But there's unrest within Labor's own ranks, with one party elder telling caucus today that the
party should never violate United Nations conventions.

Here's political editor Chris Uhlmann.

CHRIS UHLMANN, REPORTER: Each day a myriad of interests intersect at Federal Parliament. Here the
large and small concerns of Australians are aired.

RICHARD DI NATALE, GREENS MP: We are going to see an important bill before the Parliament today,
that is the bill on plain packaging.

LEE RHIANNON, GREENS: Today in this Parliament, war crimes committed in Sri Lanka will be

CHRIS UHLMANN: But a casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that the nation's obsessed with
only one thing.

CHRIS BOWEN, IMMIGRATION MINISTER: If the legislation does fail then that would mean that any
offshore processing would in our view not be legally sound and we would not be able to proceed with

JULIA GILLARD, PRIME MINISTER: Offshore processing is at risk.

SCOTT MORRISON, OPP. IMMIGRATION SPOKESMAN: The amendment we've put to the Government would
actually enable the Government to go ahead with offshore processing.

CHRIS UHLMANN: And apparently the national interest rests in the hands of only one man.


?: Tony Abbott.


CHRIS UHLMANN: But behind closed doors, Labor battled over how its own leaders were interpreting
the national interest. Its left pushed in caucus for an end to offshore processing with party elder
John Faulkner arguing the party should never undermine United Nations conventions.

And Tony Abbott began his day in Melbourne. The night before in Canberra he shattered the
Government's hopes that he would reboot the plan to send asylum seekers to Malaysia.

TONY ABBOTT, OPPOSITION LEADER: The Prime Minister can't turn around and say to the Opposition
Leader, "Oh, look, it's your responsibility to get my policy through the Parliament."

CHRIS UHLMANN: In Parliament the faux politeness of yesterday evaporated.

JULIA GILLARD: He is terrified that the Malaysia arrangement will work. He is terrified it will
work, and what he wants to see for this country is more boats because he believes that will serve
his political interest.

CHRIS BOWEN: Mr Speaker, we all know the Leader of the Opposition is a weathervane, Mr Speaker, but
the weathervane always points to his own political interest and not the national interest.

JULIA GILLARD: In government their actions were not associated with Refugee Convention countries.
Now there's a word for that, and it's called hypocrisy.

CHRIS UHLMANN: For 40 minutes in Question Time the Government and Opposition thrashed each other
over offshore processing.

JULIE BISHOP, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: How many asylum seekers have been processed outside
Australia by this government since the Government closed the Howard Government's Nauru processing
centre and abolished the Pacific Solution?

JULIA GILLARD: Thankyou very much and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows the answer to that
question. Perhaps she might want us to supply the answer to the question: how many asylum seekers
won't be processed offshore because of the reckless negativity of this Opposition. You're right,
you're right; on the strategy you're wrong. The Opposition stands for zero when it comes to ...

CHRIS UHLMANN: Then the Opposition turned its attack to other matters.

JULIE BISHOP: I refer the Prime Minister to recent comments by Kathy Jackson, national secretary of
the Health Services Union.

CHRIS UHLMANN: And too much talk of border protection was not enough.

JULIA GILLARD: ... and I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for her question, confirming, as
it does, that the Opposition could not sustain its argument for its refugee and asylum seeker
policy for half of Question Time. And of course they can't sustain it because it is founded on
hypocrisy about the Refugee Convention and founded on hypocrisy about assurances. So that has
fallen away.