A LABOR Party vote to support asylum seeker boat turnbacks if it wins back government has been slammed by Amnesty International.
Amnesty International peninsula branch spokesman Kevin Bain criticised Labor and opposition leader Bill Shorten’s move at the party’s annual national conference last month to fall into line with the Abbott government’s boats turnback policy.
Mr Bain has presented several petitions in recent months to Liberal federal government ministers Bruce Billson and Greg Hunt in Dunkley and Flinders respectively protesting against the Abbott government’s “inhumane treatment” of asylum seekers.
“Boat turnbacks are a recipe to violate rights and endanger lives,” Mr Bain said.
“People are entitled to have a proper asylum review process and the question is ‘turn back to where?’.
“We have a responsibility to protect and not punish people for seeking asylum. To promote turnbacks is one of the biggest ethical distortions in our society.”
Federal Labor MP for Isaacs Mark Dreyfus said the opposition “cannot ignore the thousands of people who have died at sea trying to seek asylum”.
“Provided it can be done so safely, a future Labor government reserves the option to turn back boats at sea to discourage people smugglers from risking the lives of asylum seekers at sea, in compliance with the Refugee Convention.”
Mr Dreyfus, a non-voting delegate at the weekend Labor conference, said a Labor government “would remove the Abbott government’s cruel and ineffective temporary protection visas and its militarisation of the transfer of asylum seekers”.
“Labor will not demonise asylum seekers with the inflammatory and ignorant language of the Abbott government. Instead Labor will bring transparency to the process of seeking asylum.”
Mr Dreyfus said Labor will double Australia’s annual refugee intake to 27,000 by 2025.
Mr Bain said the major political parties are “compromising some of our fundamental human values” and this will damage Australian society in the long term.
“If all countries did this [turnbacks] the United Nations Refugee Convention would collapse and the implications for that are not positive for Australia or the whole world.”