Ian Macdonald Says Nauru Isn't A 'Hellhole', Backs Government Asylum Seeker Policy

06/02/2016 3:12 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Liberal senator Ian Macdonald has defended the morality of sending infants born to asylum seekers in Australia back to the Nauru detention centre, rejecting claims the remote Pacific island is a "hellhole".

Speaking on Sunday, Macdonald backed the current approach to dealing with almost 300 asylum seekers who face being returned to Nauru after a High Court decision this week.

He said there should be no exception for detainees' babies born in Australia.

"No, I don't think there should be. But again, I wonder at the parents who make these hazardous journeys with young children. I mean, one has to wonder about, you know, their motivation," he told the ABC.

"I think the laws have worked well. I think they're clear. And I think they should be enforced."

Macdonald's comments contrast with those of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews who has called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to show compassion towards the 267 asylum seekers, including more than 30 babies.

NSW Premier Mike Baird says his government is "prepared to help" resettle the detainees if requested.

Macdonald said Nauru was sometimes unfairly criticised.

"The islands you're talking about are in many cases far more, in in inverted commas, civilised than many of the countries that these people have come from," he said.

"They're not the hellholes that some people try to make it out to be. They are countries where the locals live happily and with most of the facilities of life."

Turnbull on Sunday stood by the government's stance on border protection.

"There are no policy options available in terms of border protection which are not tough which cannot be described as harsh, but the one thing we know, without any question, is that the approach that we took in the Howard era worked," he told ABC television.

"When it was unpicked, it was a colossal failure in humanitarian terms."

This week's High Court decision in favour of the government prompted a large rally outside the Department of Immigration in Sydney's CBD, which called for the government to keep the asylum seekers in Australia.

In his letter to the PM posted on his Facebook page, Andrews said Victoria was "ready to assist and care for the children and their families who were brought to Australia from Nauru".

"Following the recent High Court decision, this group faces the prospect of return to Nauru. But they should stay in Australia and you can make this decision," Andrews' letter states.

"A sense of compassion is not only in the best interests of these children and their families. It is also in the best interests of our status as a fair and decent nation."

Andrews said sending infants, some of whom were born in Australia, to Nauru, was "wrong".

"Medical professionals tell us this. Humanitarian agencies tell us this. Our values tell us this, too. Sending these children and their families to Nauru is not the Australian way," he added.

Andrews said Victoria was ready to provide the group with housing, education, health and welfare services.

"I want these children and their families to call Victoria home."

He closed the letter to the Prime Minister saying he looked forward to working with the government on a "fair solution".

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