Candidates unite on 'unacceptable' detention centre policy
 Baw Baw News   Federal politics   By // 19:38, Friday 16 October 2015

rch children in detention protest image from rch website

McMILLAN // CANDIDATES for the federal seat of McMillan at the next election have backed sitting Liberal MP Russell Broadbent’s disagreement with his own party’s refugee detention policies.

Above: Royal Children's Hospital doctors protesting on the weekend. Image from the RCH website.

On Monday Mr Broadbent told ABC Radio National having children in detention was “unacceptable.”


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“Women and children in detention, behind razor wire in this country or locked away on an island, is unacceptable,” he said.

Mr Broadbent was responding to a protest by Royal Children’s Hospital doctors on the weekend calling on the federal Liberal government to remove children from immigration detention. Doctors said they would refuse to discharge refugee children back to detention centres.

“The Australian people, through the Royal Children’s Hospital, have shifted. They’ve said our detention policies are not good enough,” Mr Broadbent said.

He said the doctors were not “lefty activists”, in line with an interview with the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen earlier this year in which he described refugee action groups as “whingers,” and added: “when the people shift, the politicians will shift.”


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“I know the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, is doing his utmost to stop the people smugglers, turn the boats back, but we have to do something with the issue of people in long-term detention.”

Asked what he thought of Mr Broadbent’s comments, Labor candidate for the seat Chris Buckingham deferred to a letter to the editor he sent to many Gippsland papers last month.

“In recent weeks Australians rediscovered their humanity when the tide of public opinion turned in favour of Syrian asylum seekers,” he wrote.

“The refugee crisis in Syria and Europe precipitated an outpouring of good will that no cynical government could resist.

“The Australian Labor Party has a clear policy position as a result of heartfelt and sincere debate at the [party’s] national conference in July.

“Through a democratic process we voted for an increased intake of refugees, the establishment of faster and fairer processing of refugee claims and increased support for a more collaborative regional approach. We are not prepared to let the people smugglers get back into business.

“The ALP does not support the use of offshore processing centres as punitive holding cells. We have an obligation to protect the human rights of all people who come to Australia no matter how they come here. The purgatory created by the coalition government on Manus Island and Nauru is a stop gap measure.

“The inhumane detention of asylum seekers is a source of national shame. Locking women and children up in forced detention for jumping the queue is disproportionate punishment.”


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Greens candidate Donna Lancaster said she agreed public opinion had changed and, when asked if she thought Mr Broadbent’s comments were reactionary, noted his previous stands for refugees against the former Howard government’s offshore detention policies.

“I recognise that Mr Broadbent has, in the past, stood up against the [poor] treatment of refugees,” she told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.

“Public perception is changing, it’s a shame that Russell’s voting in parliament and that of his party hasn’t changed to reflect this.

“I wonder if it is the change in Liberal leadership (from Tony Abbott to Malcolm Turnbull) that has given Mr Broadbent scope to speak up and it would be great if he can convince the rest of the party to take action on refugees.

“I agree that public perception is changing. In 2010 I organised a fundraising dinner with Sarah Hanson-Young where she talked about our policy. Our stance hasn’t changed and this has been Green’s policy for many years, not just when public perception changes.”

Ms Lancaster said her experiences working with children added to her compassion for detained refugee children.

“I agree that locking people up off shore is not the solution,” Ms Lancaster said.

“Over the last few months Mr Broadbent has called for a solution from groups opposing the Liberals stance. The Greens have a solution which I am proud to stand up for.

“The Greens have long called for onshore processing of refugees.

“I work with children and see the impact that major traumas can have on them. I shudder to think what impact it must have on the children locked up for long term, going through what they see and experience on a day to day basis.

WBBC approached Mr Broadbent with questions for this story. No response was received before print.

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10 responses to “Candidates unite on 'unacceptable' detention centre policy”

  1. John Anderson says:

    I applaud all three candidates for their stance of refugees. In regards Russell Broadbent’s comments, Well done for speaking out. The problem is that it is your party that calls refugees “illegal” and this has not helped the anti – refugee sentiment that the right wing groups promote. In addition, it is the Coalition that has sent Abaya back to Nauru under the instructions of one of the most inhumane Immigration Ministers that has held office in this country. I used to think Morrisson was the worst, but Dutton, after winning the title of worst Health Minister ever, has now taken another title from Morrison

  2. Geoff Ellis says:

    “The Australian people….have shifted?” No, they haven’t. They are just sick and tired of waking up each morning to some new horror inflicted on people in trouble. If keeping children behind razor wire is unacceptable now, it was unacceptable when Abbott was writing the script for our somnambulant member.

  3. Raymond says:

    The current overall immigration policy is absolutely necessary, otherwise you end up straight back in the complete mess Labor found itself in when it tore up the Howard Government’s policy.

    Whether the treatment of children within this can be improved is debatable. So what’s the solution? Separate children and parents? That’s more cruel, I would think… perhaps that’s exactly why it is what it is. The lesser of the two evils.

    If unscrupulous people-smugglers didn’t create the problem, this wouldn’t be an issue to start with.

  4. Geoff Ellis says:

    People smugglers did not create the problem.

    The problem is that people’s lives are being shattered; they need to flee.

    This has been an issue since the Pharoahs; one day, if common decency gains ascendancy over political expediency we might just make some progress.

    John Howard and Bush’s Coalition of the Witless exacerbated issues in the Middle East that have festered since the British redrew the boundaries after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

    We need another Solomon, not another slogan.

  5. Raymond says:

    Geoff, that’s a left-wing smokescreen.

    Many of the ‘refugees’ are just economic migrants. The trafficking is a people smuggler’s business model that is cruel, inhumane and illegal.

    If a nation cannot secure its borders, what hope has it got? This is a fundamental test of national sovereignty, however much the bleeding hearts want to bleat.

    The great sorrowful part is the human suffering, but pandering to it will only increase the problem and make it worse as the people smuggler’s take advantage.

  6. Geoff Ellis says:

    Just what my bleeding heart was bleating about: slogans and “name” calling. I think the smoke is blowing from the right.

    The vast, relentless wave of humanity that is being forced out of it’s homeland is not motivated by money. They are trying to keep their children alive.

  7. Raymond says:

    Slogan or no slogan, the truth is what actually matters.

    And the truth is, a lot of migrants are single males without their families. Real refugees do not leave their families back home, yet 72 per cent of these flooding into Europe are men.

    Furthermore, moving on to another country after first arriving in a safe country is an economic decision and really questions whether they are genuine refugees.

    IS has also boasted of planting terrorists among the ‘refugees’. We are importing the problem – terrorism – which is getting worse and worse.

    There are elements in society, typically from the left, who delight in misleading and drowning the facts with sanctimony and self-righteousness.

  8. Geoff Ellis says:

    Again with the name calling, must be something about the lunch menu.

    Real refugees? So those millions crossing the Med are fakes and frauds? Their plight looks pretty convincing to me but my view isn’t blocked by smoky mirrors.

    Talking about statistics, the “72% are men” implies that there are over a million abandoned families, still safely ensconced in their homes, waiting patiently, lacking nothing but the higher wages to be sent home?

    Sorry if this is heard as sanctimonious but the truth is what really matters. “Truth is absolute” to quote John Howard.

  9. Raymond says:

    Geoff, it sounds like you should be at greens.org.au instead… that minority, fringe protest party with irrational and utopian ideals that would run this country into the ground in no time were they given the chance.

    Let’s open the floodgates, shall we?

  10. Geoff (wrong, not a green) Ellis says:

    Always with the labels, so it’s not just the lunch menu!

    Open the floodgates? Seriously, that’s a suggestion?, but I suppose if the entire history of the Middle East is a “left wing smoke screen” it might seem like sense.

    A few of the Greens “policies” are too city-centric for me. If we want to open up anything, we should let a National stand as Candidate for McMillan.

    It will happen next time round, whatever the outcome of the upcoming Election.