THE Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce has welcomed the commitment of the Australian Labor Party to appoint an independent advocate for asylum-seeker children if it is returned to government.
It has expressed disappointment, however, at the decision at the triennial conference to adopt the current Liberal-National Party Federal Government’s policy of turning back asylum-seeker boats. Under that policy, asylum-seeker boats are returned to transit countries.
The Dean of Brisbane, the Very Revd Dr Peter Catt, who chairs the taskforce, said that “this goes in part towards what the Churches Taskforce and several UN bodies and senate committees have been trying to get up since 2004, which is to have an independent guardian, instead of the Minister for Immigration, to look after children who arrive on their own.”
He also welcomed the commitment to increasing the refugee intake to 27,000 people, although he hoped that that could be done in a few years rather than the ten-year time-frame in the commitment. “If the number of people that Australia takes in was increased dramatically and quickly, the imperative for families to get on boats wouldn’t be so strong in the first place,” he said.
The Taskforce’s executive officer, Misha Coleman, said that the Taskforce continued to reject turning back the boats and the associated on-water processing procedures. The adoption of this policy was the subject of controversy at the Labor Party conference, and was opposed by several senior Labor politicians.