Australia’s Bowen Presents Parliament With Migration Law Changes

Australian’s immigration minister, Chris Bowen, has presented migration law changes to parliament after the High Court last month rejected his policy of assessing refugee claims for asylum offshore.

The changes, which don’t have the support of the opposition Liberal-National coalition or the Greens lawmakers Prime Minister Julia Gillard depends on for her parliamentary majority, aims to make it legal for the minister to send asylum- seekers to another nation for processing, Bowen told parliament in Canberra today.

Even though the legislation is likely to be blocked by parliament, the government “wants to make a political point and they feel duty bound to try and do something,” said John Warhurst, a professor at the Australian National University in Canberra. “They want to pin down the Greens and opposition to vote it down. This way they can say ‘we tried.’”

Gillard is seeking to resurrect a deal with Malaysia to process illegal immigrants in that country after the High Court blocked the policy. The refugee issue is among reasons Labor’s primary vote has slumped to a record-low 26 percent, according to a Newspoll published by the Australian yesterday.

“It would be a travesty to lose this moment,” Bowen told parliament in Canberra as he introduced the law amendments. “This time with a crucial willing partner, like Malaysia.”

Leader of the opposition in the Senate, George Brandis, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. today that it doesn’t support the changes and will introduce its own amendments to enable offshore processing in Nauru.

“People are sick of watching the politics around all of this,” Gillard told 2SM radio in Sydney today. “The most humane way to deal with asylum seekers and refugees is to do everything you can to deter people from getting on leaky boats where they can lose their lives.”

Debate on the legislation was adjourned.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jacob Greber in Sydney at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chitra Somayaji at

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