Many asylum seeker supporters were disappointed by the outcome of the ALP National Conference, held in July this year. Labor delegates voted against a motion to reject boat turn-backs and reaffirmed their commitment to offshore processing.
However, these decisions were not unanimously supported by Labor MPs and senators, with a number of ALP politicians publicly expressing their opposition to their party’s asylum seeker policies.
One such MP is Melissa Parke, federal member for Fremantle. She is spearheading this latest motion to challenge the ALP’s stance on offshore detention.
In a recent speech in parliament, Ms Parke spoke about the need to confront some “uncomfortable truths” about Australia’s offshore detention system.
“It is a myth that the institutional cruelty in our offshore detention centres is essential to saving lives at sea,” she said.
“When the Minister for Immigration or anyone else says that being ‘tough’ or running a ‘hard line’ on asylum seekers in our care is in fact a form of larger compassion — that is false.
“The truth is that we — Australians, through our representatives and our taxes – have established and are funding two island prisons on which people convicted of no crime are being held indefinitely in circumstances that are not just prone to, but actually productive of terrible human suffering.”
Ms Parke also criticised the absence of bipartisan efforts to establish a regional protection framework for asylum seekers.
“More than $1 billion per year of Australian taxpayers’ money is being spent to torture asylum seekers in a grotesque faux caring deterrence exercise,” she said.
“This vast amount of money would go a long way towards assisting countries in our region to improve governance and provide services such as housing, health and education, and assisting UNHCR to process claims for asylum.”
A recent study conducted by Roy Morgan Research indicated that Australians’ attitudes towards asylum seekers are changing. According to the study, 71 per cent of Australians support asylum seeker immigration, up from 52 per cent in 2010. Support for Muslim migrants has also increased from 54 per cent in 2010 to 65 per cent.
The Uniting Church strongly opposes offshore detention and has repeatedly called for the closure of Nauru and Manus Island detention centres. The Church believes asylum seekers should be allowed to live in the community, so they can access education, health and government services while their claims are processed.
The Justice and International Mission (JIM) unit has created a petition calling on ALP senators and MPs to vote for the motion to close Nauru and Manus Island detention centres. All signatures on the petition will be forwarded to the relevant senators and MPs ahead of the caucus meeting.
Image by Greens MPs via Flickr.