JOHN MENADUE. What our next Prime Minister should do on asylum seekers.

25/07/2016

The following is a repost from 22 June 2016 – before the recent election.

After the election, our new Prime Minister should arrange an urgent meeting with the leaders of the three other major parties to negotiate a sensible and humanitarian response on asylum issues that have been avoided in the election campaign. At that meeting the new Prime Minister should make it clear that compromise will be required and that at least metaphorically, no-one should leave the meeting until there is an agreed response.

The new Prime Minister should put to the other three leaders, the following .

First, bring the 2,000 asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru to Australia for immediate processing. Subject to checks, they should live in the community while this processing occurs.

Secondly, beef up Operation Sovereign Borders as necessary to ensure that there are no further boat arrivals. Diplomatic discussions with Indonesia will be essential.

Thirdly, an increase in the humanitarian program to 20,000 per year, within the next two years.

Fourthly, a major diplomatic effort in the region in association with regional countries and UNHCR to negotiate and implement a regional framework of burden-sharing to manage forced migration and refugee flows in our region.

The suggested compromise policy package is based on several assumptions.

The first is that most Australians believe that the cruelty inflicted on people in Nauru and Manus is unsustainable and morally indefensible.

Second, evidence clearly suggests that Australians will respond to an increase in the refugee intake, provided the government is seen to be in control our borders and that the refugee intake is managed by the Australian government.

Thirdly, major parties will need to accept that given the divisive debate in the past each must compromise if a humanitarian and sensible outcome is to be achieved for the future. Hopefully we could then see the beginning of bipartisan and multi-party support for refugee policies that will bring healing to many people that we are punishing, and restore Australia’s reputation as a generous receiver of refugees.

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