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Roach resignation, a wake-up call.

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Senator Natasha Stott Despoja Leader of the Australian Democrats 23 January 2002 MEDIA RELEASE 02/020

Roach resignation, a wake-up call Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, today repeated her Party’s call for Immigration Minister, Philip Ruddock, to resign over his complete failure to address the desperate situation occurring at Woomera detention centre.

Senator Stott Despoja said the situation at Woomera was now too serious for the Howard Government to maintain its hard-hearted stance.

“The Democrats reiterate our call for children to be removed from all of Australia’s detention centres, but especially Woomera, and for the Government to speed up the processing of claims.

“We urge the South Australian Government to state its case forcefully today to Mr Ruddock on its concerns for the welfare of the children at Woomera.

“The Democrats also insist the Government adopt alternatives to the current regime of compulsory detention. While claims for refugee status are assessed, families should be in group homes outside detention centres and unescorted minors should be in the care of community and welfare agencies.

“Consideration in the immediate term should also be given to the United Nations taking over the supervision of Woomera to ensure the orderly and fair processing of claims,” said Senator Stott Despoja.

“Neville Roach’s resignation as Chairman of the Council for Multicultural Australia and the Business Advisory Council on Migration is a wake-up call for the Government.

“Mr Roach is a respected advocate of multiculturalism and has enormous experience in the area of immigration. It would be irresponsible for the Government to dismiss Mr Roach’s criticism but given the arrogance the Government has shown on this issue, it would not be unexpected.

“The Democrats are heartened by Human Rights Commissioner, Sev Ozdowski’s, decision to send officers to Woomera tomorrow as part of the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention.

“Hopefully Mr Ozdowski can convince the Prime Minister a more compassionate approach is needed,” concluded Senator Stott Despoja.

Senator Stott Despoja and Democrats’ Immigration Spokesperson, Senator Andrew Bartlett, will be in Woomera tomorrow (Thursday, 24 January) to meet groups concerned about the welfare of the asylum seekers.

For media inquires: Alison Rogers on 0419 867 649