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Coalition hypocrisy on refugee intake boost

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24 August 2012


The Liberal Party has shown a disappointing but unsurprising degree of hypocrisy in opposing the important increase in Australia’s humanitarian intake, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, said today.

"Less than two months after proposing to increase the refugee intake to 20,000 in a deal with Judi Moylan and the Greens, the Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott are now condemning the Government for the exact same policy,” Mr Bowen said.

"Scott Morrison has gone from condemning me for proposing an increase in the refugee intake last year, to championing the increase in June, to condemning the increase again now.

“Mr Abbott is fond of saying the Coalition’s policy on asylum seekers hasn’t changed in ten years, but in June this year their policy was a refugee intake of 20,000. This week they have backed away from that and had the audacity of criticising the Government for it.”

At a press conference on 27 June 2012, Mr Abbott said: “…What we have offered to crossbench members is an increase in Australia's refugee and humanitarian intake from the current level to 20,000 a year within three years…”

But today Scott Morrison was quoted in The Australian as saying the Government was “out of touch” for its decision on “taking on more refugees”.

And on 2UE’s Drive program yesterday he further backtracked on the Coalition’s position, saying: “So we’ll make clear before the next election what our refugee and humanitarian intake will be. We’ve always been very, very cautious about this notion of lifting the intake.”

Mr Bowen said Scott Morrison’s comments followed on from his latest stunt earlier this week, when he grandstanded with the phoney claim that not designating Nauru as an offshore processing place in Parliament was holding up the transfer of asylum seekers.

“This is a complete deception. The designation in no way holds up the work of the Defence Forces or the Immigration Department - as Australian soldiers flying out to Nauru today clearly shows,” Mr Bowen said.

“The operational and logistical preparations for establishing facilities in Nauru and Papua New Guinea are occurring in parallel with the diplomatic and legal processes that are necessary to provide me with comfort that the designation of these countries meets the legislative test.

“Unlike the Howard Government, who designated Nauru weeks after they had already moved people there, this Government is committed to getting this right.”

Mr Bowen said Mr Morrison’s hastiness was in stark contrast to his press release in February this year, where he promised he could have Nauru reopened ‘in less than 12 weeks’.

“Indeed, Mr Morrison said he would take three months to set up just 350 beds on Nauru and now he has the cheek to claim we’re going too slow,” he said.

“Considering it hasn’t even been two weeks since the expert panel handed down its report and the Government already has troops moving to set up accommodation in Nauru, one would expect Mr Morrison to be pretty happy with our progress.”

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