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Shadow Minister and barrister criticise decision to move latest arrival of Vietnamese boat people to Christmas Island.

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Friday 4 July 2003

Shadow Minister and barrister criticise decision to move latest arrival of Vietnamese boat people to Christmas Island


LINDA MOTTRAM: The Immigration Minister is facing calls to explain why a group of 50 Vietnamese nationals is being taken to Christmas Island, now outside Australia's migration zone, when they had already entered the zone as they earlier approached Port Hedland, in Western Australia, by boat. 


One of the lawyers who acted for the asylum seekers in the Tampa case, though, claims the Federal Government may try to prevent the group from applying for protection visas. 


From Perth, David Weber reports. 


DAVID WEBER: The group effectively made it to the mainland because the waters of Australia's ports come within the migration zone. 


Melbourne Barrister, John Manetta appeared for the group, Liberty Victoria, in the Tampa case. He says if the Vietnamese had stayed in Port Hedland, they would have been able to apply for protection visas.  


Mr Manetta believes this will be difficult, if not impossible from Christmas Island because of its special status.  


JOHN MANETTA: In taking them from the migration zone to a place outside the migration zone is simply, or even predominantly, to deprive them of the right to make application for a protection visa.  


If that's the reason why they're going to Christmas Island, then that, I think, is an abuse of the power to detain.  


DAVID WEBER: Mr Ruddock has said the Vietnamese will be accorded the rights and privileges that those on the mainland receive, but Mr Manetta says it's not the same on Christmas Island, where the group will be disadvantaged.  


JOHN MANETTA: Places like Christmas Island present a real problem with transparency, with the transparency of what goes on in the facilities there.  


DAVID WEBER: Labor did and does support the excision of Christmas Island for the purposes of migration.  


The Shadow Immigration Minister, Nicola Roxon, says if Labor was in power, the boat would have been detected sooner and the group would never have reached the migration zone.  


NICOLA ROXON: The whole thing has been a monumental stuff-up by the Minister. Clearly he didn't take the time to get proper advice before he made the decision to put people on a ship and send them back to Christmas Island. It seems a very expensive bungle. 


DAVID WEBER: If this group was some distance away from the shore, Labor would support those people taken to Christmas Island? 


NICOLA ROXON: Hypothetical, it's hard for us to answer because we believe that the Coast Guard would be a more effective way of identifying them, perhaps still in Indonesians waters, perhaps two kilometres away from Christmas Island. You know obviously, in those situations, that is the purpose of having a detention centre in Christmas Island but this seems to have come to a really ludicrous point.  


DAVID WEBER: The Joint Standing Committee on Migration is on its way to Christmas Island this morning and members were hoping to speak to the Vietnamese, who are expected to arrive on Saturday.  


LINDA MOTTRAM: David Weber reporting from Perth.