Australia has waited nine years to accept an agreement on refugees from New Zealand for fear that asylum seekers will refuse to choose an independent US senator Jacques Lambie and the Morrison government argued.
On Thursday Australia accepted the offer, first made in February 2013 take up to 450 refugees and asylum seekers who Lambi then pointed was a key commitment to win her decisive vote for repealing legislation that improves access to medical evacuation from custody.
Refugee advocates welcomed the move, but were critical of the delay, including Amnesty International Australia, which claimed that “people’s lives have been meaninglessly taken away.”
When the Medical Evacuation Act was repealed in December 2019, then-Senate leader Matthias Corman, denied existence secret deal.
On Friday, Lambie explained that she was silent about the deal because “I was told that if I disclose the terms of the deal, the deal will no longer be.”
“I do not believe it was said out of anger,” she said in a statement.
“The resettlement agreement in the United States was still in effect when I was negotiating with the Morrison government.
“And because not everyone who was eligible for resettlement under the United States program will definitely be eligible for New Zealand program, I could not comment, in the event that asylum seekers who took place in a deal with the US, abandon it in hopes of accepting the New Zealand option.
“It took longer than I wanted.”
Lambie said she was stuck in her decision to repeal medical evacuation laws, claiming it gave her “leverage to pull people out of offshore detention … to allow them to continue their lives after years of limbo.”
In 2016 then the Turnbull government concluded an agreement with the United States take up to 1,200 refugees and asylum seekers from Australian offshore detention.
On Friday, the finance minister and leader of the Liberal Senate, Simon Birminghamalso defended a nine-year delay in accepting New Zealand’s proposal.
“We have a priority to make sure we have completed the resettlement deal with the United States,” he told Sky News.
Birmingham said the agreement with New Zealand was needed to combat “a small number of legacies” and would not lead to a traction factor for refugee boats, which he said was “hindered” by other coalition politicians, such as appeals.
Paul Power, executive director of the Refugee Council of Australia, dismissed references to the US deal as a “distraction”.
Power said that even in connection with the US-New Zealand agreements and the relocation to Canada in Australia “there are still more than 500 people” or detentions offshore “without a resettlement decision”.
“If the Australian government had accepted the deal in 2013 – or at any time since then – the situation would have been very different,” he told the Guardian Australia.
“More people could have been relocated to New Zealand, especially due to a lack of their quota due to restrictions on Covid travel.”
Labor leader, Anthony Albanesetold reporters in Shellharbour that the coalition had “rejected” the agreements reached by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard and former New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.
Albanese said the Morrison government has now accepted the deal “in the days of its third term in office” after years of rhetoric that it would lead to a restart of the boats.
“There was no reason why they could [not have accepted] the New Zealand government’s repeated proposals … to resettle people in Nauru and the island of Manus, “he said, a delay that led not only to” human costs but also to incredibly significant economic costs for Australia “.
Former Home Secretary Peter Dathan repeatedly described an agreement with New Zealand as a potential “traction factor” that could restart dangerous boat trips.
Morrison ruled out accepting the deal within days of becoming prime minister in 2018, warning that this is not in line with Australia’s border protection regime.
“What you know about me on border protection is that I’m consistent,” Morrison said. said in September 2019. “I have been consistent in this matter throughout my public life.”
Shadow Immigration Minister Andrew Giles told the Guardian Australia that the government’s claim to prioritize an agreement with the US was “wrong”.
About 200 people are still on their way to relocate to the U.S., he said, showing that the routes were “different.”
“This is a desperate departure from the government to explain the failure to reach an agreement that could and should have been made many years ago,” Giles said.
“The only thing the consistent prime minister has is his inconsistency – that he is ready to do anything to solve his political problems.”