SA Labor convention calls on Gillard government to permanently abandon people-swap
• by: Michael Owen
• From: The Australian
• October 23, 2011 6:35PM
THE South Australian ALP convention has called on the Gillard government to return to Labor's national platform and permanently abandon its Malaysian people-swap deal.
A motion passed unamended at the convention this weekend at Adelaide's Festival Centre that "directs the federal government to realign its immigration policies, consistent with the ALP's National Platform".
The motion said federal Labor was obliged to "treat people seeking our protection with dignity and in accordance with the core Australian principles of fairness and humanity".
"Protection claims made in Australia will be assessed by Australians on Australian territory. The assessment and review of protection claims must be independent and free from any political or diplomatic interference," the motion said.
"Labor recognises that people residing in the community should not be arbitrarily deprived of the right to work while their claim is being processed.
"Under Labor's policies, the presumption will be that persons will remain in the community while their immigration status is resolved: persons will be detained only if the need is established.
"Detention that is indefinite or otherwise arbitrary is not acceptable and the length and conditions of detention, including the appropriateness of both the accommodation and the services provided, would be subject to regular review.
"Detention in immigration detention centres is only to be used as a last resort and for the shortest practicable time."
Since the Malaysian deal fell over, the federal government has been forced to revert to onshore processing, a move immigration officials have warned could lead to as many as 600 people arriving by boat every month.
Two other motions related to immigration policy, slightly amended, were also passed by convention with little fuss.
A motion was amended to withdraw an expression of "disquiet with the failure of the federal Minister for Immigration to articulate a policy of compassion with regards to asylum-seekers who arrive in Australia by boat".
The amended motion passed with calls on Chris Bowen to set a mandatory detention limit of 30 days, after which asylum-seekers should be allowed to live and work in the community while their claims were processed.
The Adelaide Hills is home to the 400-bed low security Inverbrackie detention centre, used mainly for family groups seeking asylum.
ALP state president and federal MP Steve Georganas said in his opening address to the convention that a proper debate was required about immigration policy.
"Over the last decade it has been a difficult issue for the party to grapple with because of the varied and wide view both within the party and the community," Mr Georganas said.
"We need to have a full and frank discussion. Can I say, in the years that have gone by we have been successful in this area.
"Afterall, we successfully accepted over 100,000 Vietnamese refugees in the 70s and 80s, many of them landing on our shores as unauthorised boat arrivals seeking asylum. This is a discussion we must have."
New South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said the matter was an "incredibly difficult public policy issue".
"I think we should behave humanely to people who come to this country, but there are other issues at stake," he said.