Prime Minister Scott Morrison would appear to have given into a leftist campaign to have asylum seeker children removed from Australia’s offshore processing centre on the island nation of Nauru. The kidsoffnarua campaign has involved a television advertising campaign fronted by doctors to claim the children on Nauru need urgent medical attention, 6,000 doctors have signed an open letter calling for children to be removed from Nauru. There were also public rallies in major cities last weekend as part of the campaign. A poll published in the Sunday Telegraph stated that 79% of voters were in favour of taking children off Nauru but still supported strong border protection.
The Coalition Government since stopping the boats when it came to power in 2013 has been adamant that those asylum seekers who have come illegally to Australia by boat will never settle here, this is to ensure there is no incentive for the people smugglers to reopen their trade. The Government has so far rejected an offer from New Zealand to settle 150 asylum seekers there unless it can pass legislation that would prevent them ever entering Australia.
What is seen to have changed the Government’s hardline position is the result of the Wentworth by-election with newly elected independent Kerryn Phelps listing as among her first priorities as a member of parliament was to get kids off Nauru. The Morrison Government having lost its one seat majority now appears to be doing whatever it takes to stay in power by wanting keep the crossbenchers in the House happy.
One day after the Wentworth by-election 11 asylum seeker children were transferred from Nauru to Australia. Today it has been reported now only 40 children remain on Nauru with the Morrison Government planning to have all children off Nauru by year’s end. Moderates within the Liberal Party have also been lobbying behind the scenes for this policy outcome.
Scott Morrison speaking on 2GB with Alan Jones today denied that the government was softening its tough border protection stance that asylum seekers on Nauru will still not be allowed to settle in Australia. But did say that it was the government’s goal to empty out Australia’s dentition centers “Our government is the government that got people out of detention, not sending children to Nauru” but that “I haven’t been showboating about it, I haven’t been drawing attention to it. It’s being done in accordance with our policies, our existing policies”.
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott stated on Monday on 2GB that “If we aren’t allowed to have kids on Nauru, then [people smugglers will say] just bring some kids with you and you automatically get to Australia”, he disputed that children were at risk on Nauru saying “Nauru is no hell-hole by any means. I’ve been there,” and “If you like living in the tropics, it’s a very, very pleasant island.”
Despite Morrison’s words there is the perception that the government is appearing to weaken its border policies in response to public pressure, any hint of such a change in policy is bound to be tested by the people smugglers who will send new boats. Even though Morrison has stated that no children who come to Australia for medical care will stay here there will likely be legal challenges by refugee advocates. Has Scott Morrison made a policy blunder by setting this end of year deadline for removing children from Nauru? Have your say in our poll below.