Monday May 13, 2013 8:00am WST
For Immediate Release
"Julia Gillard may well be the Labor Prime Minister, but that does not give her permission or authority to spontaneously peddle a new Labor Party policy that has always been anathema to the ALP. Yet her comments last Friday from Papua New Guinea represent a radical departure from the ALP's acknowledgement that asylum seekers, no matter whether they arrived with the assistance of 'smuggling ventures' or not, 'can have their day in court'," WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said today.
"Newspapers last week - particularly The Australian - have given attention to what they called a 'loophole' in the provision of the usually meagre subsistence Centrelink income to asylum seekers - for those who challenge the Immigration Department's primary decision makers or the 'Merits Review' mechanisms, challenging these departmental decisions in the Federal Courts. The newspaper pointed to the fact that those who challenge decisions in the courts do not receive any Centrelink income whatsoever, leaving them to the grace of subsistence support agencies," spokesman Jack H Smit said.
"During her PNG visit, the Prime Minister was asked for comments on the news reported in The Australian (see report below). She not only stated bluntly that those who fail the Immigration Department's primary assessment or its 'merit review', should pack up and go home, but also claimed that this represents a 'thorough process'."
"While the PM is right that Australia's assessment system is more developed than in many other countries, the fact remains that about 70% of primary and merits review decisions are overturned in the Federal Courts. Rephrased in a more banal way this means that the Immigration Department gets it wrong 70% of the time. These statistical outcomes are on the public record, and these figures are publicly available, and they should shock anyone who takes note of what on all accounts amounts to a lousy performance of the Immigration Department."
"Equally disturbing is the fact that the Prime Minister thinks that asylum seekers "should go home" following negative departmental decisions. We know that since the days of Philip Ruddock's time as Immigration Minister under the Howard government, this blunt denial of jurisdictional rights of asylum seeker has been seriously maintained in Liberal Party circles, and Scott Morrison has peddled the same political positioning. If the Prime Minister thinks that's OK she needs to quit the Labor Party and join the likes of Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison. For now however, the PM is a Labor PM, and the right of asylum seekers to 'have their day in court' is Labor Party policy, and this has always been Labor Party policy."
"The Prime Minister should be seriously wrapped over the knuckles by Caucus. She does not represent the hardline Coalition policies, she represents Labor. If she is a Labor PM, she needs to promote Labor policies," Mr Smit concluded.
"It's time to end the nonsense."
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]