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Tanya Plibersek response to emails on Labor Party Conference 2015

Sent: Thursday, August 13, 2015 11:16 AM
To: 'Mike'
Subject: RE: Asylum seekers

Dear Mike,

Thank you for contacting me about asylum-seeker policy.  I note that you wrote to me before Labor’s National Conference, I hope that you have now had a chance to look at the policy we adopted at the conference. It sets out a new policy framework for Labor, including the commitment that by 2025 Australia will have the highest per capita intake of refugees in the world, and the second largest annual intake overall behind the United States. 

As the daughter of migrants who came to Australia after the end of WWII, and as the mother of three children, I am and will always remain a strong advocate for the humane treatment of asylum seekers.

Migration has made this country great. We should never forget the debt we owe to generations of migrants and refugees who, in seeking a better life, have made Australia a better place for all of us.

Ever since the ‘Tampa’ election of 2001, domestic politics around asylum seeker policies has been nothing less than toxic.  The debate has lost rationality, compassion and respect.  I firmly believe Labor is the only party that can ‘re-set’ this debate, change the conversation, and permanently end the divisive politics regarding asylum seeker policy in this country.

At the end of WWII there were between 20-30 million refugees displaced by the war.  Today there is an estimated 59.5 million individuals forcibly displaced around the globe as a result of persecution, conflict, violence and human rights violations. 

My view is that as a wealthy nation Australia has a moral obligation to do more to address this global humanitarian crisis.  We must accept significantly more refugees to our country and we must treat those refugees more humanely. I have been calling for an increase to our refugee intake since the Abbott government cut the number from 20,000 a year under Labor, to 13,750.

We want to bring more refugees to Australia, and we want them to get here safely.

Australia played a critical role in the establishment of the United Nations in 1945 because we believed then that we have responsibilities as a good global citizen.

The Abbott government has cut $11.3 billion from our aid budget. That makes it much more difficult for Australian aid to help desperate people in their home countries, or in countries of first asylum.

We should be doing much more to support bodies like the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is struggling to care for an unprecedented number of refugees.

Australia must also support and seek always to operate in accordance with international human rights law.

Labor’s new policy regarding refugees and asylum seekers commits absolutely to such a framework. It massively increases Australia’s contributions to the UNHCR, it prioritises the UN Refugee Convention and restores references to the Convention in our domestic law, and most importantly it doubles Australia’s humanitarian refugee intake to 27,000 a year.

As I said above, under Labor’s policy, by 2025 Australia will have the highest per capita intake of refugees in the world, and the second largest annual intake overall behind the United States.

In relation to support for the UNHCR, Labor’s policy provides $450 million over three years.  This will make Australia the fifth largest donor globally to the international body, and provide an enormous boost to an agency whose entire regional budget is currently only $560 million a year. At the moment we give just $21 million per annum to the UNHCR.

As part of this contribution, a Shorten Labor Government will take a leadership role within South East Asia and the Pacific to build a regional humanitarian framework for asylum seekers.  This will include supporting the UNHCR in providing health and education services to asylum seekers and advocating for work rights for asylum seekers.

We will abolish Temporary Protection Visas which currently keep people in a permanent state of limbo, and give those found to be genuine refugees a permanent Australian visa.

Labor will end the secrecy surrounding the treatment of asylum seekers in this country.  We will implement independent oversight of all Australian-funded processing facilities, both offshore and onshore.

We will make sure that refugee claims are processed as quickly as possible, by restoring access to the Refugee Review Tribunal, and re-instating the ’90 day rule’ for reporting on the progress of a refugee’s claim.

Most importantly, Labor will establish an independent children's advocate and will remove children from detention as quickly as possible.

The children’s advocate will be an independent statutory position and a strong voice separate from government, serving only the interests of children seeking asylum.  Labor will legislate to impose mandatory reporting of any child abuse in all facilities.

Labor will continue to ensure that those working in the immigration system enjoy the benefit of whistle-blower protections so that they can safely speak out about abuse, maladministration and corruption.

No one wants to see further deaths at sea, and the only way to truly prevent this is to provide for quick, safe, processing of claims through the appropriate international bodies, at facilities across the region and globe currently housing refugees.  Labor will not rule out turn-backs as a final resort, but our policy aims to positively address the need for refugees to get into boats in the first place.

I have confidence that Labor’s position helps restore compassion and integrity to the debate about asylum seeker policy in this country.  It is now up to Tony Abbott and the Coalition to end the politics of division and fear and commit to Australia doing our fair share to deal with what is an unprecedented global humanitarian crisis.

If you are interested in any further detail of Labor’s policy, please go to:

For further reading, you may be interested in the Chief Executive of Save the Children Australia Paul Ronald’s opinion piece for The Australian:

Thank you again for contacting me on this extremely important issue.

Best wishes,

From: Mike [] Sent: Friday, 24 July 2015 3:25 PMTo: Griffin, Alan (MP); MacTiernan, Alannah (MP); Rishworth, Amanda (MP); Giles, Andrew (MP); Leigh, Andrew (MP); Burke, Anna (MP); Albanese, Anthony (MP); Byrne, Anthony (MP); Ripoll, Bernie (MP); Shorten, Bill (MP); O'Connor, Brendan (MP); King, Catherine (MP); Bowen, Chris (MP); Hayes, Chris (MP); O'Neil, Clare (MP); Feeney, David (MP); Husic, Ed (MP); Brodtmann, Gai (MP); Gray, Gary (MP); Perrett, Graham (MP); Clare, Jason (MP);; Hall, Jill (MP); Chalmers, Jim (MP); Ryan, Joanne (MP); Fitzgibbon, Joel (MP); Collins, Julie (MP); Owens, Julie (MP); Elliot, Justine (MP); Ellis, Kate (MP); Thomson, Kelvin (MP); Ferguson, Laurie (MP); Chesters, Lisa (MP); Vamvakinou, Maria (MP);; Dreyfus, Mark (MP); Thistlethwaite, Matt (MP); Parke, Melissa (MP); Danby, Michael (MP); Rowland, Michelle (MP); Champion, Nick (MP); Conroy, Pat (MP); Marles, Richard (MP); Mitchell, Rob (MP); Bird, Sharon (MP); Claydon, Sharon (MP); Neumann, Shayne (MP); Jones, Stephen (MP); Plibersek, Tanya (MP); Butler, Terri (MP); Watts, Tim (MP); Burke, Tony (MP); Zappia, Tony (MP); Snowdon, Warren (MP); Swan, Wayne (MP)Subject: Asylum seekers

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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