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Five reasons to welcome US Manus deal

  • 14 November 2016


The Turnbull government has struck a deal with the USA which provides hope at last for the 1600 proven refugees on Manus Island and Nauru. There's still a lot of work to be done before these refugees, including children, can get on with their lives after three years of unnecessary, hopeless agony. I welcome the decision, and await the further detail.

Sunday's announcement was packaged in the usual Canberra wrapping with lots of military brass, restating the need to smash people smuggling rings, keeping the boats stopped, and turning back boats when it is safe and legal to do so. No boats have arrived in the last 840 days. 29 boats have been turned back.

The Liberal-National Coalition government remains resolute that the boats will stay stopped. The Labor opposition is adamant that it is now on a 'unity ticket' with the government, being committed to keeping the boats stopped. The majority of the Senate crossbench are of the same view.

Those who maintain strong moral and legal objections to the boats being stopped need to concede that there is no political alliance in the Australian parliament which will contemplate any other option for those asylum seekers wanting to transit Indonesia and who do not face the prospect of persecution in Indonesia.

Australia will always offer better processing, security and long term life prospects for asylum seekers than its neighbours like Indonesia. But there is a limit on the number of places we Australians are prepared to offer each year for permanent humanitarian resettlement in Australia.

Gone are the days of presuming that those who arrive without visas are in direct flight from persecution. Gone are the days when they get first option on the available humanitarian places.

The deal is short on detail. But I welcome it for five reasons.

First, the government has admitted that these proven refugees are still Australia's responsibility and will be until they are permanently resettled. Second, the government has abandoned the fatuous claim that the proven refugees already had a durable, credible option — permanent resettlement in Cambodia.


"The Turnbull government has legitimate policy objectives. But there is a need to separate out the illegitimate, petty and amateur partisan politics in which these objectives continue to be wrapped, marketed and reported."


Third, the government has admitted that despite the 2013 MOU with Nauru, Nauru had not provided resettlement for any proven refugees. Should any proven refugees choose to remain in Nauru, they