Refugee Policy Changes


I was one of a small group of Labor for Refugees members who attended the ALP National Conference in Adelaide from 16th to 18th December. There were some significant changes announced regarding refugee policy which build on previous changes made through the Draft Platform Consultation process. Labor now has refugee policies which are better than they have been for some years and they will improve the lives of thousands of people. The result is not everything we aimed for but is certainly more than we thought possible some months ago.

You may have seen some or all of these in the media over recent days but here is a summary:

-           $500 million over the next five years to support the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to improve orderly regional processing and resettlement in the region

-           Negotiate an agreement with New Zealand to resettle refugees there, in a deal similar to the one secured with the United States, and approach other countries as well

-           Additional places in the form of Community Sponsorship increasing to 5,000 per year over and above the government sponsored places

-              Adopt the crossbench’s policy to move asylum seekers requiring medical attention off Nauru and Manus Island.

-              Appoint a special envoy for refugee and asylum seeker issues to advance Australia’s interests on refugee issues within the region

-              People seeking asylum will have “means-tested access to funded migration assistance, and to appropriate social services, including income, crisis housing, healthcare, mental health, community, education and English as a second language support during the assessment of the claim for protection


Ged Kearney MP for Cooper, moved the following motion which delegates passed:


“Labor recognises that successive Coalition Governments have failed to negotiate viable, timely and durable third-country arrangements. This has left refugees and asylum seekers including children languishing in indefinite detention.

This conference condemns the failure of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government to properly manage off-shore processing and regional resettlement adequately and for playing with the lives of vulnerable people.

This conference calls on the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government to immediately accept New Zealand’s offer to resettle refugees by negotiating an agreement on similar terms and conditions as the United States Arrangement.

If elected, Labor will prioritise the resettlement of all eligible refugees currently on Manus and Nauru to the United States, New Zealand and other third countries.”

Ged’s speech is posted on our Facebook page – Labor for Refugees Victoria - and I highly recommend watching it. Ged is certainly a champion for refugees.

Labor for Refugees national group made submissions to the National Policy Forum and proposed many changes which are included in the Platform:

  • Family reunion
  • Need for a bipartisan approach
  • Recognition of the need to address the reasons for people to take a boat journey
  • Inclusion of Safe Haven Enterprise Visas to be abolished and holders transitioned to permanent protection. This is extremely significant and will affect at least 8,000 people currently living in Australia.
  • Inclusion of community groups contribution to settlement
  • Recognition of the role of Comcare
  • Recognition of the role of state child protection authorities.

There have been further changes which certainly fit with our philosophy:

  • Strengthened processes relating to LGBTI people seeking asylum
  • Time limit on detention
  • Working with UNHCR and Indonesia to work through backlog of claims
  • Protection for whistle-blowers

All of these add to the positive aspects of existing ALP Platform:

  • Increased intake to 27,000 a year
  • Independent oversight of detention network
  • Independent children’s advocate
  • Mandatory reporting of child abuse in detention
  • Reinstate the Refugee Review Tribunal
  • Abolish TPVs and holders to be transitioned to permanent protection. This affects around 6,000 people currently living in Australia.
  • Abolish the so-called Fast Track Process. This affects about 11,000 people currently living in Australia still waiting on decisions.

Pauline Brown


Labor for Refugees Victoria

20 December 2018

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