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It's time Parliament had a say on 'disgraceful' PNG solution

  • 05 June 2014

On Monday night, this exchange took place on ABC 4 Corners between presenter Kerry O'Brien and Archbishop Mark Coleridge about Australia's new system of offshore processing and resettlement for asylum seekers arriving on Australian territory without a visa.

O'BRIEN: Archbishop Coleridge, one of the most powerful moments in the new Pope's reign was his very pointed and poignant visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa to see and be seen with the north Africans who risked their lives on leaky boats to seek asylum in Europe. Now, have you wondered what Pope Francis might think of Australia if he were able to visit the Manus Island detention centre?

COLERIDGE: I think he would be appalled. Just recently, Australian bishops put out a very clear and strong, but measured statement on this very point and I think Pope Francis would subscribe to that statement very strongly, saying that the current policy, supported by both sides of politics, is morally unacceptable and shames our country. And, the need for it to be reconsidered is urgent and what is puzzling and indeed troubling in all of this is that you have politicians who are not themselves cruel people, quite the contrary, but they are presiding over a policy which has to be named cruel.

This cruel arrangement cannot be scrutinised by our courts and it has never been approved by our Parliament. In the name of democracy, in the name of Australian self-respect, and in the name of human rights protection and the rule of law, it is time this arrangement was presented to our Parliament for its approval by our elected representatives or for immediate ditching. This arrangement constitutes a flagrant exercise of wanton executive power without any checks and balances. It's a disgrace.

In his second reading speech for the Migration Legislation Amendment (Offshore Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2011 on 21 September 2011, then Labor Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said:

This bill amends the Migration Act 1958 and the Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act 1946 to clarify the framework for taking irregular maritime arrivals, who arrive in Australia at an excised offshore place, to another country for assessment of their protection claims. The purpose of this bill is clear: to restore to the executive the power to set Australia's border protection policies, specifically the power to transfer asylum seekers arriving at excised offshore places to a range of designated third countries within the region, while