In the area of refugee policy the key themes running through the Labor platform are humanity, fairness, integrity and public confidence.
Labor committed to abolishing the Pacific Solution and this was one the first things the Rudd Labor Government did on taking office. It was also one of my greatest pleasures in politics. Neither humane nor fair, the Pacific Solution was also ineffective and wasteful.
At massive cost to the Australian taxpayer – I am advised that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship expended $309.8 million between September 2001 and 29 February 2008 to run the Nauru and Manus Offshore Processing Centres (OPCs) – the Howard government sought to outsource our international protection obligations to less developed countries when we should have been shouldering them ourselves.
When we came to office there were people found to be refugees left rotting on Nauru because of a political decision taken by the former government to keep them there. I must say I was pleased to discover that the department were very keen to bring them to Australia quickly, and we did this in less than two months.
We know now that most of those people were eventually resettled – after enduring needless delay and suffering – and that most of those resettled came to Australia. The Pacific Solution was not about maintaining integrity or public confidence in Australia’s arrangements. It was about the cynical politics of punishing refugees for domestic political purposes.
The same can be said about Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) – they were inhumane, unfair and ineffective. We moved quickly to abolish TPVs on taking government.
So how is that working for you?