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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 9 August 2006: Migration Amendment Designated Unauthorised Arrivals Bill.

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Member for Watson

Shadow Minister for Immigration

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP, PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA WEDNESDAY 9 AUGUST 2006 Subject: Migration Amendment Designated Unauthorised Arrivals Bill.


Tony Burke: The debate on the Migration Amendment is scheduled to start at 9am this morning and I’ll be first up.

If this is the Parliament of Indonesia I have no doubt the Bill would pass and it would pass easily. But it’s the Parliament of Australia and I think we’ve got a chance.

What we will see as the Bill goes through is whether or not people are willing to abandon principles that they held only 12 months ago. 12 months ago we decided that the minimum standards of the convention weren’t enough and there were some Australian values that went beyond that. One of those was that you don’t lock up children. Another was you don’t detain people indefinitely. The other is people should not pay with the price of their sanity because of the mental health conditions.

All of that is abandoned after the arrival of one canoe and 12 months hence.

All of that is thrown out the window in the minds of some Members of the Government.

People have asked me many times whether I am laying down the gauntlet to the moderates in the Liberal Party. Not for a minute. I don’t understand how any of them can vote for this. 12 months ago, we all agreed. I want someone in that Parliament to stand up and tell me why it’s wrong to lock children up in Australia but we can turn a blind eye and we can facilitate it happening in Nauru.

Why is it that indefinite detention is a dreadful thing to occur but who cares if it happens in another country even if we’re the reason that we’ve sent people there.

There’s a pretty simple Australian principle and it’s this: If people flee persecution then from the moment they arrive in Australia the persecution ought to end. That doesn’t happen with this Bill.

Journalist: How did your talks go with Steve Fielding? Are you confident that he will support the ALP (inaudible)?

Tony Burke: We had a good meeting yesterday. We talked at length; the meeting went for longer than it was scheduled to go for. I can’t argue with the way I was received or the issues that we worked through. But I am none the wiser as to which way he will go in the vote.

I must say I don’t understand how anyone can support families and also support what this Bill will do to some of the most desperate families in the world.

Journalist: Do you think the so called moderate Liberals might abstain rather than actually cross the floor?

Tony Burke: We’re elected to this place to have an opinion. We’re elected to this place to represent our constituencies and to do that the best way we can. I don’t think anyone was elected here in order to be irrelevant to a vote.

Journalist: Do you think people who would abstain would be fudging it?

Tony Burke: I don’t support abstaining in votes. I think you are here to stand up for what you believe. I don’t understand how anyone can believe what we all voted for 12 months ago and then support this Bill.

Journalist: Do you have any further information on claims made by the Edmund Rice Centre?

Tony Burke: My understanding is they are trying to work with the Department and with the Minister. They want the claims investigated. And let’s not forget with every one of those claims we’re talking about people who are processed in Nauru without checks and balances that go to Australian law. And you can’t take a risk. You don’t want to take risks when people are claiming that they are fleeing persecution. If you get it wrong they do get killed.


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