Date: July 02 2012
A federal cabinet minister has directly criticised the Greens, Labor's minority government partners, for blocking legislation to allow asylum seekers to be sent to another country.
''I am totally disgusted by the position that [Opposition Leader] Tony Abbott and the Greens took in the Senate to defeat that bill, because it leaves us in a position of not being able to prevent more people being killed at sea in these boats,'' Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said yesterday.
Another boat was intercepted west of Christmas Island yesterday.
Border Command said it appeared to be carrying 53 people who will be taken to detention on the island.
Mr Combet pointed out that the government had shifted its position on the asylum seeker issue, which resulted in the legislation being passed by the House of Representatives. ''It's a very difficult issue but there needs to be movement from the Greens and the Coalition on this issue,'' he told Channel Ten.
''The one really critical test is what is the policy position that will give them the maximum chance of people not dying at sea, and getting this bill that went through the House of Representatives, ultimately through the Senate, is important in that regard.''
After further deaths at sea last week, Labor sponsored debate on a bill proposed by Independent Rob Oakeshott that would have circumvented the High Court ruling against offshore processing, to allow both the government's plan for Malaysia and the Opposition's plan for Nauru to be implemented.
The Greens combined with the Coalition in the Senate to kill the attempt to restore offshore processing as a deterrent against further asylum seekers risking their lives on the trip from Indonesia.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard then handpicked a panel led by former chief of the defence force, Angus Houston, to examine the issue and report to Parliament.
Mr Abbott has already dismissed the inquiry and said he would continue with his policy regardless of the findings.
While not committing to implement her committee's recommendations, Ms Gillard said she would treat them with ''utmost significance'' even if they called for the Malaysia deal to be scrapped.
''I wouldn't have done it if I wasn't in the business of taking the greatest regard possible for what they come out with,'' she said.
Ms Gillard said Mr Abbott's rejection of the inquiry gave insights into his character.
''What kind of person is it who watches that misery, watches that pain, sees that death, hears the advice from experts and won't change their minds one millimetre?'' she said.
''What kind of person does that?''
Mr Oakeshott was also critical of the Greens and the Coalition for blocking the legislation.
''There's nowhere to hide now for those that are clearly negotiating together to try and run interference and I particularly target the Greens and the Liberal-National Party who there on the floor of the House of Representatives, were working to block,'' he said.
''There was a window where it looked like they had a deal, but it looks like it all went to mush.''
This material is subject to copyright and any unauthorised use, copying or mirroring is prohibited.
[ Canberra Times | Text-only index]