Government May Face Revolt Over Migration Laws

May 9, 2006: Government May Face Revolt Over Migration Laws

Govt may face revolt over migration laws
May 9, 2006 – 8:15PM

The government faces another potential backbench revolt over its plans to keep asylum seekers from having their claims processed on the Australian mainland.

The government last month decided to process all illegal arrivals offshore after upsetting Indonesia over a decision to grant temporary protection visas to 42 Papuan asylum seekers.

At a meeting of government MPs and senators on Tuesday, a number expressed concern over the legislation, which will be introduced later this week.

A joint party room spokesman said about 16 parliamentarians had spoken on the issue with “varying degrees of opposition” expressed by a small group of MPs.

“The sort of comment was, 'I cannot support this bill',” he said.

“This bill will not be withdrawn, (but) the prime minister was very happy to discuss things.”

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said there would be discussions about the legislation but the government would not necessarily give in to dissent.

“The prime minister has made it clear that the government's made this decision, we're not going to be used as a staging point for protests about domestic issues in other countries,” Senator Vanstone told ABC Radio.

“We don't expect this legislation to be used a lot because we expect it to send a message that we don't want to be used in that way.

“But within that, if we can find some accommodation, we'll look for it.”

Last year, Mr Howard reached agreement with a group of dissident backbenchers, led by Victorian Petrou Georgiou, to get children and long-term detainees out of mainland detention centres.

Senator Vanstone said some government MPs and senators felt the government had been more than accommodating last year in its deal with the renegade backbenchers.

“There was a view expressed this morning that the government had already done enough last year and enough was enough,” she said.

The joint party spokesman said the main opposition to the bill related to keeping women and children out of mainland detention centres.

“One of the arguments against it was that there had been an agreement negotiated last year relating to detention centres, some people felt that this was against the spirit of the agreement,” he said.

“On the other hand, there were arguments for the bill saying this is a logical extension of offshore islands and made it consistent with that approach.”

ABC Radio reported that three government politicians were unwilling to support the bill, including one senator.

Opposition immigration spokesman Tony Burke said a scheduled briefing by the minister on Tuesday afternoon had been cancelled following the coalition party room dispute.

“The minister has cancelled the briefing and they don't know if they'll be able to brief me at all this week,” he said.

He applauded the government MPs who objected to the planned amendments.

“Labor knew from the start that this proposal was wrong,” Mr Burke said.

“It appears now that there are backbenchers in the government who also know it's wrong.

“It only takes one government senator to vote with their conscience and to join Labor in opposing this bill and it can be stopped.”