New Detention Policy Thanks To Us: Ruddock

New detention policy thanks to us: Ruddock

The Age
July 30, 2008

The Rudd government has only been able to soften detention policy because of the hard work of the previous Howard government, former immigration minister Philip Ruddock says.

Under changes unveiled by Immigration Minister Chris Evans yesterday, asylum seekers and visa overstayers will now be detained only if they are judged to pose a risk to the community.

Boat people will continue to be detained on Christmas Island but with a changed focus on resolving their cases quickly.

The Howard government policy had essentially stopped the flow of thousands of people illegally entering Australia from Indonesia, Mr Ruddock said today.

“This government has the benefit of the policies of the Howard government which worked and brought very large numbers of unauthorised arrivals – in some years numbering several thousand – to an end,” Mr Ruddock told Sky News.

“What we have now is 300 people – fewer than 10 who are unauthorised border arrivals – held in detention today.

“It's a luxury that you can have when you don't have very large arrivals that you can devote resources to dealing with the management of the outcome in ways which were not possible when we were in office.”

He also warned that people smugglers may see the new policy as a sign that their trade could resume.

“People smugglers are in a business. Essentially all of the measures, many of which have been unwound by this government, brought that trafficking to an end,” Mr Ruddock said.

“I do not know what traffickers will see in these matters, but what I do not know … was intelligence said they were very much aware of the legal environment operating in Australia – mandatory detention, offshore processing, returning people to Indonesia.

“All of these factors together had an impact on people being willing to be trafficked.

“They watch what is happening here and may well come to a view that these are circumstances in which they should reopen those sorts of trafficking arrangements.”