Labor’s half-step forward on refugees

11 Aug 2015

Some encouraging developments got lost in the coverage of Labor’s national conference

There’s more to Labor’s new policy on refugees and asylum seekers than we learnt from most media reports Labor’s national conference. With the focus on factional battles and the most contentious of the proposed changes, key elements of what could be a viable policy were largely overlooked.

As always in such a highly charged area of public policy, the devil is in the detail. Labor gets it about right by focusing on the need for international engagement and for regional and bilateral responses to population displacement. But it retains offshore processing centres and regional resettlement, and leaves open the option of boat turnbacks, hardening the shift in asylum seeker and refugee policy that begun when it was last in office.

It will be several weeks before we see the final, endorsed platform. If we add the conference amendments to the draft platform, though, it’s clear that Labor has crafted a policy strong on border protection but much more mixed in its other responses to asylum seekers…

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