Lifetime ban on refugees visiting Australia in trouble as crossbenchers voice opposition

As the Coalition ramps up its rhetoric, senators Leyonhjelm, Hinch, Griff and Kakoschke-Moore express concern

The government’s proposed lifetime ban on refugees in offshore detention visiting Australia is in trouble after several crossbench senators voiced opposition to the bill.

Despite the Coalition ramping up its rhetoric on the ban, Labor confirmed it still opposed it on Monday, and senators David Leyonhjelm, Derryn Hinch, Stirling Griff and Skye Kakoschke-Moore expressed concerns.

Under a lifetime ban, refugees on Manus Island and Nauru would be banned from visiting Australia even if they become citizens of another country.

On Sunday the government unveiled a resettlement deal that would allow an unspecified number of refugees to settle in the US and called on Labor to pass the ban to send the “strongest signal” that none of the refugees would ever come to Australia. Labor refused, repeating its criticism that the ban was “ridiculous”.

The bill has passed the lower house and the government is seeking to pass it in the Senate in the remaining two sitting weeks of the year.

Given that Labor and the Greens oppose it, and Bob Day’s Senate seat has not been filled, the no camp needs just three crossbench senators to block the bill. The Nick Xenophon Team will have a conscience vote on the issue.

On Monday, Griff, the NXT’s immigration spokesman, told Guardian Australia he believed “that the ban would be cruel, and does nothing to achieve the objective of stopping the boats”.

“Everyone in the NXT party room has indicated concern at some level.”

NXT had asked the government to consider substantially increasing the humanitarian intake, he said, but the government had not indicated that this would be considered.

Griff said the government “would need to pull a lot of rabbits out of its hat” to get more votes from NXT.

A spokeswoman for Kakoschke-Moore said the senator “can’t support the bill in its current form” but would make a final decision after further consultation with the government and stakeholders.

Hinch told Guardian Australia he had not seen the legislation, and he was “told it exempts under-18s, which is a start”, referring to the fact that people who were children when they were sent to detention would not be banned. “But lifetime bans [are] not practicable,” he said.

According to an ABC report, Leyonhjelm said he supported the US resettlement deal but was yet to be convinced he should vote for the Migration Act changes.

“It’s going too far, also I don’t think it’s enforceable,” he reportedly told the ABC, as well as expressing concerns that the bill would prevent refugees from the Pacific region from entering Australia if any conflicts broke out. Leyonhjelm said he would propose amendments to the bill.

One Nation and Senator Jacqui Lambie support the refugee travel ban.

Turnbull says people smugglers will try to use US deal as ‘marketing opportunity’

At a press conference in Sydney on Monday, Malcolm Turnbull addressed Bill Shorten and said: “The Australian people support the government in sending this clear and unequivocal message.

“You know Australians want their borders kept secure, you know that Australia recognises that our policy on border protection has worked.

“You claim you’re on a unity ticket with us, well, words are cheap, what we need is action – we need deeds, we need the Labor party to support that legislation in the Senate.”

The Labor leader said the government “hasn’t made the case” for the ban.

“It hasn’t shown the evidence that the visa ban legislation is automatically linked to what the Americans require for this regional resettlement deal,” Shorten said on Monday. “Our best information is that the Americans are not putting on the table a requirement that you have this sort of lifetime visa ban.”

He called on the government to stop “playing politics with this issue of regional resettlement”.

“What really matters here is stopping the people smugglers, making sure that people are not drowning at sea but also making sure that after three-plus years, we can resettle genuine refugees in the United States or other countries.”


Paul Karp

The GuardianTramp

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