‘No advantage’ asylum policy needs explanation: Minister

New Immigration Minister Tony Burke admits the government’s ‘no advantage’ policy for asylum seekers requires further explanation. Photo: Andrew MearesLawyer warns of SAS legal issuesUse of SAS against Tampa ‘outrageous’

The government’s “no-advantage” principle for asylum seekers who arrive by boat has not been fully defined almost a year after coming into effect, immigration minister Tony Burke admitted on Tuesday.

“I think there was a bit of a view that further explanation of the no-advantage principle wasn’t required,” Mr Burke said.

“I have a different view. I think further explanation is required and that’s why I’m driving it.”

Mr Burke said he supported the principle underlying the policy – in which asylum seekers arriving after August 13, 2012, were to be given no advantage over those who waited for a humanitarian visa in a refugee camp.

But, he said, questions around the length of time asylum seekers would wait, and how the policy would be implemented, had not yet been resolved.

“I don’t think the explanation is tight enough,” he said. “It’s not a hardening or a softening of the principle; it’s simply to provide a higher level of clarity on it.”

The government last week began processing the more than 22,000 asylum seekers who arrived after August 13.

Asked why it had taken nearly a year to define the policy, Mr Burke said: “Given the processing only of the people who are affected by it only began on Monday, I’m not particularly concerned by the intervening delay. And the commencement of that processing doesn’t mean that it will be a fast process before it’s concluded or before we get to the final part of it when visas are issued.”

Mr Burke said the delay in processing people who had arrived after August 13 had made little difference to their individual cases. And he rejected suggestions the delays had resulted in a backlog of cases before the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

“Let’s not forget there’s a limited number of places available each year anyway, and those places have been being filled, so in terms of how long does it take for people ultimately to get visas, the delay has made, from what I can tell, no difference to that at all in terms of the actual visa processing, because that’s organised year on year.”

In a wide-ranging press conference in Canberra, Mr Burke called for a calm debate on asylum seekers, based on facts.

On the ABC on Monday night, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said a Coalition government would “make a difference to “stop the boats”, vowing to “make a difference from day one”.

“We will stop the boats,” he said. “I believe we can stop the boats in a term of government and certainly we will be judged, should we win an election, on our performance in that term.”

Mr Burke hit out at Mr Abbott, accusing him of campaigning on a slogan rather than tackling a significant policy issue.

“The ‘stop the boats’ slogan, I think we heard it half a dozen times during the course of that interview and I just want to bring a few moments of reality back to this.”

He said it was meaningless to apply Mr Howard’s 2001 policy settings to the current asylum seeker trends, with global movement up, and people smugglers adapting their product to changing circumstances.

“If anyone actually thinks you can photocopy the rules of 2001 and more than a decade later people smugglers haven’t found a way around them, then they are kidding themselves.

“Tony Abbott knows it doesn’t work but thinks if he keeps repeating his slogan he’ll get away without having to go to any level of detail.”

Meanwhile, Nationals whip John “Whacker” Williams invoked terrorist attacks when he told Fairfax Media’s Breaking Politics program on Tuesday that he supported Australia’s right to control who came through its borders.

“We can’t have this industry just go on and people come here willy nilly and I will add that we must be aware that there are three men in jail who were going to shoot up the Holsworthy army base. Great intelligence captured those men, and we don’t want those things happening in our country.”

He said it was “outrageous” to conclude he was implying that all asylum seekers were potential terrorists.

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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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