A new approach: Breaking the stalemate on refugees and asylum seekers is a report from the Centre for Policy Development’s Cities and Settlement Initiative.
Australia needs a circuit-breaker in our treatment of people seeking asylum from war and persecution.
On the tenth anniversary of the MV Tampa’s rescue of 438 asylum seekers from their distressed vessel Palapa 1, Australia’s asylum and refugee policy is still sadly characterised by human tragedy, political opportunism, policy failure and great cost.
People seek asylum here have been the subject of an increasingly contentious public and political discussion. A toxic debate has polarised large sections of the Australian community and paralysed politicians of most persuasions from engaging in constructive dialogue. Misrepresentation is rife. We have reached a stalemate.
It was not always this way. Leaders of the past like Ben Chifley, Arthur Calwell, Malcolm Fraser and Ian MacPhee appealed to our better angels. We responded grudgingly to begin with and then quite charitably to large refugee flows.
We are now rightly proud of the great contributions which the 700 000 refugees who have come here since the Second World War have made to this nation. Australia’s generosity has been handsomely reciprocated. Refugee resettlement has been a great success story. We should not forget it.
We must break the current impasse, which has strangled our ability to move towards principled and effective responses. A return to constructive bi-partisanship would benefit our nation greatly.
The Centre for Policy Development’s A new approach: Breaking the stalemate on refugees and asylum seekers report sets out a pathway to advance Australia’s national interest by assuring that the claims of asylum seekers to Australia’s protection are considered rigorously but with compassion.
The report proposes a series of actions with the potential to achieve tangible policy progress. These measures aim to ensure Australia:
A new approach outlines steps for improvement in five main areas. By supporting the spirit of these recommendations we hope that good policy will again make good politics.
See below for list of all endorsers.
Professor Frank Brennan SJ AO. “We Australians are still all at sea seeking to find an asylum policy which is workable, economic, legal, politically saleable and above an agreed moral bottom line. The report, A New Approach, from the Centre for Policy Development deserves consideration as a conversation starter and a prospective circuit-breaker.”
Heather Ridout, Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group. “The new approach to refugees and asylum seekers proposed by the Centre for Policy Development deserves widespread community support and should be given serious consideration across the political spectrum. With genuine political will there is no reason why Australia cannot move away from the corrosive and divisive state of the current debate and back to the bipartisan approach which served Australia so well for so long.”
John Hewson, AM. Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia (1990 – 1994). “This is an issue that should be above and beyond politics, not one to be exploited in a mindless, short-term political race to the bottom, the “winner” being the toughest and most inhumane to those who are predominately desperate people fleeing war and persecution in search of a new life for themselves and their families.”
Samah Hadid, Human rights activist and former Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations. “The Centre for Policy Development’s report ‘A New Approach– Breaking the Stalemate on Refugees and Asylum Seekers’ is exactly the fresh and comprehensive approach that is needed in this policy debate. This report is the circuit breaker refugee advocates and policy makers have been looking for.”
Gideon Haigh, Journalist. “Australia’s policies for the treatment of refugees are tired, cynical, populist and punitive. I wholeheartedly support the CPD’s thoughtful, comprehensive and realistic proposals, in the belief they will enhance the contribution this country makes to the alleviation of a worldwide problem.”
Tuong Quang Luu, AO. Director, ActionAid Australia and Head of SBS Radio (1989-2006). “As a former Vietnamese refugee who survived his escape on a waxed bamboo basket in the Gulf of Thailand, I would never suggest to anyone to risk their life on unseaworthy boats to Australia. But asylum seekers hardly have choices and those who survive their horrific journey should be treated with compassion while their claim to refugee status is considered. In my view, the Centre for Policy Development’s Recommendations to the Commonwealth Government, which I fully endorse, represent a balanced and sensible solution to the difficult and often misunderstood issues of boat people and border protection. If approved, Australia would not only restore its internationally-recognised reputation as a humanitarian civil society but could also maximise its human and financial assets.”
Carmen Lawrence, Former Premier of Western Australia (1990 – 1993). “Long-term detention of asylum seekers fleeing persecution not only violates their human rights, but also severely damages their health, resulting in further trauma, depression, self-harm and profound psychological damage.”
Read the full CPD report, A New Approach: Breaking the Stalemate of Refugee & Asylum Seekers here.
A New Approach comprehensively critiques Australia’s refugee and asylum policies and finds they are inhumane, ineffective and expensive.
The Centre for Policy Development and the authors would like to thank all the individuals who donated generously to make this report possible.
A New Approach: Breakig the Stalemate on Refugees & Asylum Seekers is supported by:
Ian Anderson, AM. Board member, Oxfam Australia and Founding Chair of Australians for Just Refugee Programs (2002-2005). David Block, AC. Julian Burnside, AOQC. Frank Brennan, AO SJ. Professor of Law, Public Policy Institute, Australian Catholic University. Bryan Brown, AM Actor. Michael Chaney, AO. Chairman, National Australia Bank, Woodside Petroleum and Gresham Partners. Gervase Chaney President, Paediatrics and Child Health Division of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. Angela Chaney Member of the Coalition for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees. Fred Chaney, AO. Former Liberal Minister and Member of the Coalition for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees. John Gibson President of the Refugee Council of Australia. Kerry Goulston, AO. Emeritus Professor, Sydney Medical School at the University of Sydney and Consultant Physician. Samah Hadid. Human rights activist and former Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations. Gideon Haigh Journalist. John Hewson, AM. Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia (1990 – 1994). Janet Holmes a Court, AC. Chair, Heytesbury. Ged Kearney President, Australian Council of Trade Unions. Thomas Keneally, AO. Novelist, playwright and author. Carmen Lawrence Director of the Centre for the Study of Social Change at the University of Western Australia, and Premier of Western Australia (1990 – 1993). Tuong Quang Luu, AO. Director, ActionAid Australia and Head of SBS Radio (1989-2006). Ian Macphee, AO. Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (1979 – 1982). Ian McAuley. Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Canberra and Fellow at the Centre for Policy Development. Wendy McCarthy, AO. Executive Director, McCarthy Mentoring. Hugh Mackay, Psychologist, social researcher and writer. Sir Gustav Nossal, AC CBE. Emeritus Professor, The University of Melbourne. Chris Masters, Journalist and author. Roy Masters, Sports journalist and former rugby league coach. George Miller, AO. Filmmaker – Mad Max, Babe, and Happy Feet. Melissa Parke, MP. Federal member for Fremantle. Neville Roach, AO. Former Chairman of the National Multicultural Advisory Council, Council for Multicultural Australia and Business (Migration) Advisory Panel. Heather Ridout. Chief Executive, Australian Industry Group. Margaret Sixel. Film editor – Mad Max, Babe, and Happy Feet. Richard Tognetti, AO. Artistic Director, Australian Chamber Orchestra. David Williamson, AO. Playwright and Screenwriter. Kristin Williamson, Novelist and Biographer.
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