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Labor moving in the right direction on refugees but still a long way to go.

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Senator Andrew Bartlett Leader of the Australian Democrats Spokesperson for Immigration 31 January 2004 MEDIA RELEASE 04/033


Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Andrew Bartlett, today said the refugee policy adopted by the ALP conference was a step in the right direction, but needed to go much further.

“Mandatory detention is neither justified or necessary. There are very good reasons why no other country goes to the extremes that Australia does in locking up every asylum seeker. Watering it down is not sufficient,” said Senator Bartlett.

“Similarly, whilst reducing the duration of temporary protection visas is better than nothing, it still leaves in place a policy that leaves genuine refugees unable to rebuild their lives, extending the torment of uncertainty and the separation from family.

“Labor must also commit to reversing some of the disgraceful legislative changes they allowed through the Senate before the 2001 federal election.

“The bottom line is that Australia’s laws and policies towards asylum seekers and refugees cost far too much in human suffering, social division, taxpayers’ money and perversion of the rule of law. That can only be addressed by reversing the damage and dishonesty that the Labor Party has allowed to occur in the past.

“Mark Latham may want to focus on the future, but he has to acknowledge Labor’s mistakes of the past on this fundamental issue,” said Senator Bartlett.

Senator Bartlett, who has just visited Nauru and New Zealand to examine the way our neighbour deals with asylum seekers, said the experience of other countries showed that mandatory detention was not a necessary part of having an orderly process, caused permanent damage to innocent people and undermined basic legal principles.

“Adopting a humane approach towards asylum seekers isn’t just about being more compassionate, it’s also about protecting some fundamental freedoms and rights that our society is built on. Compromising these freedoms for some people puts them at risk for all of us,” said Senator Bartlett.

“The Democrats also indicate our willingness to work with Labor, and indeed the Government, in an attempt to get the earliest possible resolution to the unacceptable situation of 264 people still being stuck in indefinite, isolated detention on Nauru.

“This farce must end as soon as possible,” concluded Senator Bartlett.

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