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response from Melissa Parke MP to Mike's letter to Labor National Conference

Dear Mike,
Thanks for your email – and let me say at the outset that I don’t support ‘boat turn-backs’.  Turning back boats at sea is against international law; it is dangerous; it runs against the principle of non-refoulement (which means that people seeking refuge cannot be sent back to circumstances of persecution); and it is not in any case an effective way of avoiding deaths at sea, as some claim.
While I’m glad there was an open and robust debate at National Conference on this issue, I’m very sorry that Labor didn’t resolve to reject ‘boat turn backs’ or to close offshore centres when there is clear evidence of failures to protect refugees in those centres.  I am glad, however, that Labor resolved to double the humanitarian migrant intake, and to involve and resource the UNHCR to a much greater degree.  These are important, positive changes, though more can be and needs to be done.
I have always argued for an approach to asylum seekers that is consistent with international law and moral principle, both within Labor and in parliament and the public domain (see, for example, herehere, and here).
I know that many people, like you, feel deeply disappointed and even angry that Labor hasn’t fought the government fiercely on its scaremongering and its senseless ‘tough-on-border’ posturing.  I’m often angry myself – and along with a number of my colleagues and groups like Labor4Refugees, I’m fighting to shift Labor on these issues.
Again, thanks for taking the time to write with your thoughtful input and perspective on this issue.
Kind regards,
Hon Melissa Parke MP
Federal Labor Member for Fremantle
Canberra: Suite R1.31, Parliament House, Canberra | TEL: 02 6277 4504
Electorate office: 62 Wray Avenue, Fremantle, WA 6160 | TEL: 08 9335 8555  

Dear Labor Members of Parliament,
This weekend you have the opportunity to break away from the cruel and inhumane asylum seeker policy so ruthlessly pursued by the Abbott government. There are better ways to manage the complex problems of asylum seeker policy. Simply aping the Coalition in a race to the bottom for purely electoral reasons is not the way to go. If you endorse Bill Shorten’s proposal to support turnbacks, then you will lose the support of many sections of the community, who are looking to the ALP to rise above the disgraceful situation that we currently find ourselves in. It’s time to show some spine, some principle and some compassion, and to respect the international conventions and treaties which we, as a nation, have signed up to.

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