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5 November 2014




It's time! Beyond the boats - building an asylum and refugee policy for the long term

Now that the acute phase of boat arrivals appears to be over, Beyond the boats is timely. It urges all parties to use this opportunity to step back and develop an overarching national asylum and refugee policy for the long term.

The Hon Fred Chaney AO, Senior Australian of the Year and former minister in the Fraser government, launched Beyond the boats: building an asylum and refugee policy for the long term at an event hosted by Liberal MP, Russell Broadbent, at Parliament House today.

Mr Chaney said "This is a highly politicised issue and I think change needs to come from the community. ... you have to look for serious well-regarded community voices to explain that it is in our self interest to manage our refugee policy in a different way. ...The larger issues relating to the worldwide refugee crisis also need acceptance. ...That will only occur through new non-partisan conversations in the community."

About Beyond the boats
The report follows a high-level expert roundtable on asylum and refugee policy held at Parliament House in July under the auspices of Australia21, the Centre for Policy Development and the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at the University of New South Wales.

Written by Bob Douglas, Claire Higgins, Arja Keski-Nummi, Jane McAdam and Travers McLeod, the report's nine-point framework focuses on managing arrivals, conditions and treatment, and regional and community engagement. To make an immediate and appreciable difference the report recommends:
  • expanding pathways for humanitarian settlement, such as via orderly departure arrangements,
  • swift determination of claims and improved conditions including work rights and transitioning away from mandatory detention.
  •  a regional Track II dialogue on forced migration
What some participants said:

Labor Senator, Sam Dastyari:  The July Roundtable discussion “was a bold and innovative effort to re-start a mature discussion on asylum seekers; a discussion that must respect the broad views of Australians and the deeply divisive nature of the debate in order to progress. Both sides of this divide are only too willing to express their anger and outrage, but few are prepared to step into the breach to look for reasonable policy solutions.”
Greens MP, Adam Bandt:  " It’s clear that we have the ideas to make Australian immigration policy something that we can be proud of. Now it’s time for all political leaders to have the courage to implement fair policies that treat asylum seekers and refugees with the respect and compassion that they deserve.
Liberal MP, Angus Taylor: "One thing I learnt very quickly is that there is a clear and quite logical rationale to the way middle Australia thinks about this topic. ... At the heart of it is that we must have controlled immigration. ...Having accepted controlled immigration as a starting point we have a lot of license. But if we give up on that basic principle we are out of touch and we will not get an outcome that the Australian people will accept."

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