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Nauru hunger strike.

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Stephen Smith MP Shadow Minister for Immigration Member for Perth

02/04 8 January 2004


I welcome the announcement that the Nauru hunger strikers will suspend their hunger strike from 2 pm Australian Eastern Summer Time today.

I note that the decision to suspend the hunger strike is based upon the announcement of a voluntary medical team’s planned visit to Nauru with the support of the Nauru Government, together with the decision of the Australian Government to review cases at the request of the UNHCR based on changed circumstances in certain parts of Afghanistan.

This decision has clearly been helped by the concern expressed by the Nauru Government, together with the goodwill of the medical professionals involved.

Regrettably, the Howard Government has played no role in bringing the matter to this point.

From day one, the Government’s handling of this matter has been appalling.

Immigration Minister Vanstone has simply denied responsibility and sought to blame others for the predicament. As late as yesterday former Immigration Minister Ruddock said that it was not a responsibility of the Howard Government.

There could have been decisive action by the Government as early as Christmas Eve, when the first suggestion of difficulties with medical services was made and when the UNHCR called on the Howard Government to review cases in line with the UNHCR’s own determination.

Regrettably, it was only as late as this week that Minister Vanstone made it clear that the Government would reluctantly review the cases, while the question of the adequacy of medical services descended into an unseemly sledging of the Nauru Government.

This sorry circumstance underlines the benefit of Labor’s policy position: that the Pacific Solution should end, that detainees should be detained by Commonwealth officers on Commonwealth territory and that there should be sensible accountability measures like media and independent medical access to detainees.


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