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Resist cheap political shots – Aussie Opposition MP

October 15, 2009

West Australian : Sri Lankans determined to make it to Australia
“I think that we should resist engaging in cheap political shots at a group of people who are clearly very traumatised,” Ms Moylan said.

Sri Lankan asylum seekers whose dream of life in Australia was foiled by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s dial-up diplomacy with his Indonesian counterpart plan to attempt the trip again.

The more than 250 ethnic Tamils, who threatened to blow themselves up yesterday during tense negotiations at the Indonesian port of Merak, are expected to be taken to a detention centre on Sumatra partly-funded by Australia.

They are refusing to disembark and pleaded with Mr Rudd to save them from an uncertain future.

Their spokesman, a man named Alex, said the 195 men, 27 women and 31 children would stay firm.

WA Premier Colin Barnett said yesterday the Federal immigration policies had clearly led to an increase in illegal immigrants trying to reach Australia and called for the Howard government’s Pacific solution to be “re-examined”.

He said present policies encouraged “extreme actions”’ such as jumping overboard and blowing up boats. He had no doubt the policies encouraged people smugglers and criticised the decision to grant refugee status yesterday to the Afghan asylum seekers from the boat which exploded off Ashmore reef six months ago.

Alex said the Sri Lankans picked Australia because it was the only western country they could reach.

The Indonesian navy stopped them off the island of Krakatoa after Mr Rudd made a plea to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Saturday.

Indonesian navy commander Colonel Irawan, who was in talks with the Sri Lankans yesterday, said they were no longer suicidal but were adamant they wanted to continue to Australia. “They’re still expecting to go there,” Colonel Irawan said. “And they don’t want to be sent home, that’s for sure.”

Perth Tamil community spokesman Raj Rajeswaran said Mr Rudd should have let the boat through if they were genuinely fleeing persecution inSri Lanka. “From the point of view of the Tamils it’s not fair. They come here because they have nowhere else to go,” Dr Rajeswaran said.

Mr Rudd was unapologetic and did not rule out again calling on Dr Yudhoyono to stop more boats.

“It’s the right thing to do in the national interest because we have huge push factors out there affecting so many countries in the region,” he said. “We maintain an unapologetic tough line on border security and a humane approach in dealing with people, but that requires also very practical levels of co-ordination with the regional partners.”

The Opposition also blamed Labor’s softening of the Howard border protection policy for the surge in unauthorised boat arrivals — 1711 people on 32 boats intercepted in Australian waters this year.

Hardline Liberals want temporary protection visas reinstated and a revival of the Pacific solution, under which asylum seekers were processed on Nauru and on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

But WA Liberal moderate Judi Moylan urged her party to tread carefully on asylum policy and not resurrect divisive ideology.

“I think that we should resist engaging in cheap political shots at a group of people who are clearly very traumatised,” Ms Moylan said.

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