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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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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