8 Nov 2016

Aus Labor party will oppose boat-people ban

5:50 pm on 8 November 2016

The opposition Labor party in Australia will oppose the government's bill that blocks boat people from ever returning there.

The bill which targets refugees detained on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island and Nauru was introduced to parliament today.

Under the proposed amendment to the Migration Act, asylum seekers who attempted to travel to Australia by boat after July 2013 would be permanently banned from applying to enter Australia.

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton (L) and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop address journalists during a press conference in Nusa Dua, Bali on March 23, 2016.

Australian immigration minister Peter Dutton. Photo: AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka

The Supreme Court in PNG has ruled the detention of refugees is illegal and could order about 900 refugees detained on Manus Island under a deal with Australia be returned to that country.

Canberra said it is negotiating their resettlement with third countries but refugee advocates say Labor's opposition to the bill shows third countries have not been found.

The Immigration minister, Peter Dutton, said, however, the government is close to signing a resettlement deal.

"The Government has been very clear that we have been in negotiation with third countries for a long perod of time. We are going to land a deal, we are going to provide third country options because I don't want to see people on Nauru and Manus."

Mr Dutton told Parliament he will soon reveal details of the resettlement deal, but hinted it could depend on support for the bill.

"Our policy has not only been to stop drowings at sea and get kids out of detention, but it is to get people off Manus and Nauru, starting with the families. We will tell you shortly the detail but we need your support," he said.

Labor said the government would not reveal if any pending third party arrangements rely on the boat people ban, which could ultimately be blocked by the crossbench of the Senate.

The Xenaphon Team occupies three crossbenches in the senate and its leader, Nick Xenaphon, said his party will decide whether to support the bill once its been briefed by the government.

"I for one don't want to see any restart of the people smuggler trade and the drownings at sea," said Mr Xenaphon.

"There's a question there of a balance between being necessarily tough or unnecessarily cruel."


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