POLITICS

Labor Will Oppose The Lifetime Ban On Refugees Entering Australia

"A floundering Government, simply aping the policies of One Nation".

08/11/2016 10:32 AM AEDT | Updated 08/11/2016 11:58 AM AEDT
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The policy would have stopped refugees on Manus Island (above) or Nauru from entering Australia.

Labor's party room has unanimously agreed to block the government's proposal to ban asylum seekers from ever entering Australia, likely dooming the plan to failure.

The opposition shadow cabinet met on Monday night to discuss their response to the policy. They voted to oppose the measure, and at a shadow caucus meeting on Tuesday, the decision was made by the whole opposition party room to block the idea. A Labor MP confirmed to The Huffington Post Australia that opposition to the plan was unanimous.

Under the plan, announced two weeks ago, any asylum seekers who had ever tried to arrive in Australia by boat -- including those currently on Manus Island and Nauru -- would be permanently banned from living in or even visiting Australia. The ban would be backdated to any who had tried to enter from July 2013 onwards.

"People who come by people smugglers and make that dangerous journey should not settle in Australia. We do not want to see the people smugglers back in business," Labor leader Bill Shorten told a press conference.

"We are on a unity ticket with the Government to stop the people smugglers but we are not on a unity ticket to stop the tourists."

Shorten called the laws a "pathetic stunt".

"In many ways the Government's latest proposals are a solution looking for the problem. The idea that a citizen of the United States or Canada or New Zealand faces a life time ban preventing them from visiting Australia in 30 or 40 years time is simply unacceptable to me and my Labor colleagues," he said.

"We recognise this legislation has been a desperate gesture by a floundering Government, simply aping the policies of One Nation without any proper analysis or evidence."

In a statement, refugee group Refugee Action Coalition said the idea "was always a political stunt" and welcomed Labor's opposition.

"Labor's stance makes it almost certain that Turnbull's bill will be defeated. It is a welcome first sign that the days of bipartisan support for offshore detention are ending," the RAC said.

"Turnbull's latest political stunt may fail but there is still no solution for the 1500 people imprisoned on Nauru and Manus. Labor's opposition to the lifetime ban has now exposed the gaping hole at the end of offshore detention – that after three years and four months, there are no "third countries" willing to resettle refugees from Manus or Nauru."

Other refugee advocates have also welcomed the news:

As news filtered out from the party room meeting that the opposition would block the ban, immigration minister Peter Dutton tweeted:

The Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) bill is due to be introduced into the House of Representatives on Tuesday. The government will have the numbers to pass the bill in the lower house, but with Labor and the Greens uniting in opposition to the proposal, the government would have to corral nine of the 11 Senate crossbenchers to get the bill passed into law. With Family First senator Bob Day having resigned, a cloud over the future of One Nation senator Rod Culleton, and the Nick Xenophon Team trio's position unclear, the refugee ban seems doomed.

"I don't necessarily like what's happened, but the alternative is much worse," Xenophon said of the idea.

"I need to see details of the proposal. It's one thing to be tough to stop the people smuggling trade. It's another thing to be unnecessarily cruel."

Labor leader Bill Shorten had previously criticised the idea, but had until Tuesdeay resisted formally ruling out Labor's support for the plan.

"We certainly agree people who come here by people smugglers shouldn't be allowed to settle here permanently but this latest proposal from Mr Turnbull is just ludicrous on face value," Shorten told Insiders on Sunday.

"It doesn't seem to make any sense to say that someone who becomes, is found to be a genuine refugee, who then becomes a Canadian or American citizen couldn't visit Australia in 40 years' time as a tourist or a teacher. That's over the top, it's a distraction from the real problems."

Shorten had also previously claimed that "if it is not Tony Abbott pulling Malcolm Turnbull's strings, it is clearly One Nation".

There has been talk that Labor could support the bill, but only with major changes. Dutton previously stated that the government would not entertain amendments to the bill.

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