Coalition MPs revolt on ‘dehumanising’ debts

29/06/2018 Posted by admin

AN UPRISING over refugee debts began in the House of Representatives yesterday, urging an end to a “dark chapter” in Australia’s history.Coalition backbenchers rose one by one to speak against its tough line on detention debts and in favour of the Government’s plan to abolish them.The debts, introduced by Labor in 1992, require refugees to reimburse the Government for the cost of their mandatory detention. Outstanding debts total $8.9 million – the cost of chasing them will exceed the amount collected this financial year.Close to tears, a moderate Liberal, Petro Georgiou, argued for the “dehumanising” charges to be dropped. “No advanced society should allow on its statutes a law which so degrades and humiliates fellow human beings who are legitimately calling on our protection,” he said.Under the changes, criminal detainees such as illegal fishermen and people smugglers would remain liable to pay food, accommodation and transport costs of $125.40 a day.Mr Georgiou said both sides of Parliament had been complicit in the demonisation of refugees and called for a bipartisan approach to end the negative portrayal. “Imposing these charges is part of the process of dehumanising people seeking seeking refuge – part of the way they are presented as being worse than the worst,” he said. Not even rapists were asked to pay for their incarceration, he said.Most detention debt is eventually written off or waived but having an amount owing limits former detainees from travelling and freely using bank accounts. Debts of more than $300,000 had been charged to families, Labor’s Yvette D’Ath told the House.Sharman Stone, the Opposition’s immigration spokeswoman, did not back the plan to abolish the debts.”Abolishing the detention debt principle is going to remove one more deterrent [to] people smugglers arguing now that Australia has a wide open back door,” she said.A vote on the bill is likely today. The changes are expected to become law with the support of both independent senators.
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