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Port Hedland move for boat arrivals

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MEDIA RELEASE Philip Ruddock MP Federal Member for Dundas Shadow Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs

Tel: (02) 858 1011 Tel: (06) 277 4343 Fax: (02) 804 6739 Fax: (06) 277 4178

Electorate Parliament House


The Opposition has no undue concern at the Government's intention to move all Indo­ chinese boat people detained in Darwin to Port Hedland this evening.

It is welcome that the Minister has announced publicly the Government's intention. This ocurred with the move of 113 Khmer from Melbourne to Sydney at the end of August, but follows a clandestine removal of boat people from Sydney to Darwin earlier this year.

Previously, such a move from Darwin would have been seen as precipitate as adequate legal advice and counsel had not been available to genuine asylum seekers. By now, all such claims should have been prepared and lodged.

Far more important issues, however, remain unaddressed.

Why has it taken so long for asylum seekers, first to make their claims, second to have them processed, and third to have consequential decisions followed through.

Obviously, any genuine refugees need continued protection but those without bona-fide claims should have left Australian shores.

Sensible and negotiated arrangements for the return of Khmer to Cambodia now seem to be at risk notwithstanding Australia's role in peace discussions and its commitment to diplomatic representation in Phnom Penh.

While the cost, of housing people at Port Hedland may generate savings, the overall cost to the Australian taxpayers through delayed processing is of outrageous proportions.

It is timely to recall that it is the Government's failure to address comprehensively the whole issue of refugee, determination that is leading to the breakdown in control of Australia's borders and ongoing costs for Australian taxpayers.

Still overlooked are the 23,000 asylum seekers currently pressing claims in Australia, of which the boat people are only the tip of the iceberg.

This enormous backlog of claims cannot possibly be processed in a timely fashion with current resource allocations. In the meantime, the cost to the Australian taxpayer is mounting.

October 21 1991