25 January 2012

Sparks fly between parties in Australian immigration row

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After talks regarding Australian immigration between political parties took a turn for the worse yesterday, opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison has declared his reasons for leaving the talks, accusing the government of being 'ridiculous and absurd'.

Australian immigration

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison

The two major political parties in Australia, the ruling Labor Party and the opposing Coalition, have clashed over their individual solutions to the growing Australian immigration problem.

The government have been trying to secure the opposition's support for their controversial people swap deal with Malaysia while the opposition have been trying to reopen an offshore processing centre on the Pacific island of Nauru.

The government had been initially critical of reopening the centre on Nauru but it was reported yesterday that government ministers had in fact visited the centre in late 2011; many believed this would be in an attempt to coax support from the opposition regarding the people swap deal, known as the Malaysia Solution.

However, the visit to Nauru revealed poor conditions with facilities dismantled, severe water shortages and a lack of space to house Australian staff.

The government have claimed that the facility would not be able to detain asylum seekers for three months and then only 400 asylum seekers could be held there. In addition to its time and space limitations, the government predicted that reopening the Nauru centre would cost AU$1.7 billion (£1.14 billion) over four years, not including AU$316 million (£212 million) it would cost to rebuild the centres.

These predictions have been met with dismay by Mr Morrison who claimed they were "ridiculous, absurd. We suggested they reopen a processing facility on Nauru, not the moon."

Mr Morrison accused his governmental counterpart, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen of "trying to trash Nauru as an offshore processing option" and ridiculed the prediction that the cost of the Nauru centre would be four times higher than similar facilities on the Australian mainland.

Mr Bowen has responded by promising to detail the individual costs involved, claiming Mr Morrison was choosing to "ignore the costings" as they were inconvenient and that the Coalition were refusing to move even "a millimetre" on the immigration debate.

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