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Democrats question PM's priorities.

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Senator Natasha Stott Despoja Parliamentary Leader and Senator for South Australia Australian Democrats spokesperson for Prime Minister & Cabinet

Senator Andrew Bartlett Senator for Queensland

Press Release Dated: 1 Sep 2001 Press Release Number: 01/ 519 Portfolio: Prime Minister & Cabinet Related: Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

Democrats question PM's priorities

The Australian Democrats have welcomed the prospect of an end to the extended and unnecessary ordeal of the asylum seekers and the Norwegian crew onboard The MV Tampa.

However, the Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, said the Prime Minister’s solution represents another embarrassment for Australia and a waste of taxpayer’s money.

“The fact that the Australian Government is paying to shift around 300 people who are already in Australia all the way to Nauru, just to assess their claims for asylum, shows what absurd lengths the Prime Minister is prepared to go to,” said Senator Stott Despoja.

“This is an island in the Central Pacific, north of the Solomon Islands with an area of 21 square kilometres and a population of just under 12,000.

“One can only imagine the cost to taxpayers of deploying all these defence personnel and transporting 300 people to a tiny pacific island, especially when you consider that some of these people may return to Australia if their claims for refugee status are accepted.

“Mr Howard must decide whether his priority is for a political solution or a humanitarian solution in the event that this type of situation arises again.”

Democrats’ Immigration Spokesperson, Senator Andrew Bartlett, said Mr Howard had shown he was incapable of dealing constructively or logically with a difficult global issue.

“The Prime Minister has sacrificed the national interest for his own narrow political interests. His behaviour throughout this whole sorry episode has shown a total failure of leadership.

“The Democrats’ welcome the apparent resolution to this farcical impasse, but the solution the Prime Minister has come up with makes little sense on a humanitarian or financial basis.

“It does nothing to restore Australia’s reputation in the eyes of the world,” concluded Senator Bartlett.