Bishop Grech welcomes defeat of asylum amendment plans

Sandhurst Bishop Joe Grech yesterday welcomed the Government's withdrawal of plans for tougher new asylum laws while the Edmund Rice Centre's Phil Glendenning has called for a "mature" debate on asylum seeker issues, "free from the fear and insecurities associated with terrorism and national security."

The Government's withdrawal of its proposal was a significant event for those who believed in the fair and humane treatment of asylum seekers coming to Australia, said Bishop Joseph Grech, the Bishops' delegate on immigration and refugee matters, who also praised the "strength and integrity" of politicians who opposed the Government's Offshore Processing Bill.

"I congratulate all of those politicians, from both Houses of Parliament, who registered their opposition to the Bill, particularly those Senators whose voting intentions precipitated the Prime Minister's withdrawal of the Bill," Bishop Grech said in comments that were echoed by the Edmund Rice Centre and other church groups.

"Their personal strength and integrity in dealing with this legislation in the face of enormous pressure has had a powerful impact and I commend them for the stance they took," Bishop Grech said.

The Government abandoned plans for the tougher new asylum laws - designed to ease Indonesian concerns following arrivals early this year of Papua asylum seekers - after a revolt by government backbenchers and senators ensured that the legislation could not be passed.

The revolt handed Prime Minister John Howard the biggest parliamentary defeat in his 10 years in office, and forced him to withdraw the changes ahead of the Senate vote.

Bishop Grech said the Church had previously been vocal in its opposition to the legislation which would have seen asylum seekers who arrived by boat sent to an offshore detention centre for processing.

"The idea of sending asylum seekers, including women and children, back into indefinite detention was very strongly opposed not only by the Church but by the community at large," he said.

Also welcoming the Bill's defeat, are the Brisbane Catholic Social Justice Commission and Broome's Office of Justice, Ecology and Peace.

"This has been a demonstration that democracy is still at work in the major parties in our parliament," Broome diocese's Br Shane Wood said.

Meanwhile, Edmund Rice Centre Director Mr Glendenning has called for a "mature debate" on Australia's refugee policy.

"Those fleeing the Taliban, are not the Taliban. They never were the Taliban. Those fleeing terror have the same interests as us in ensuring national security.

"These issues are complex and rapidly changing. Hopefully now we are in a position to deal with their claims and circumstances in an appropriate way.

"It is in all our interests to get the security questions right. However, the absurdity of the Government's position was to demonise people fleeing terror as if they were terrorists," he said.

The Centre last week released a report that revealed nine men and three children died as a consequence of Australia's offshore detention and processing policy.

The Centre says details of the deaths have been delivered to the Government for investigation.

Catholic Bishop welcomes government's withdrawal of offshore processing bill (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Media Release, 14/8/06)
Catholic Church welcomes scrapping of migration Bill (ABC South Queensland 15/8/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Edmund Rice Centre

Killed asylum seeker details sent to DIMA (CathNews, 14/8/06)
Off-shore processing failed dead asylum seekers: Edmund Rice (CathNews, 10/8/06)
Nine rejected asylum seekers killed: Edmund Rice Centre (CathNews, 8/8/06)
Detention stuff-ups no surprise to Edmund Rice researchers (CathNews, 3/5/05)
Edmund Rice Centre claims at least 35 refugees sent back to danger (CathNews, 29/9/04)
Bishops welcome release of detention centre children (CathNews, 26/8/03)

Those Who Fled from the Taliban, Never Were the Taliban (Edmund Rice Centre, Media Release, 14/8/06)

15 Aug 2006