Interview Outtakes (V): Sam Dastyari and Tim Watts on asylum policy

Yesterday, I blogged some interview outtakes on asylum policy from Andrew Markus, Peter Lewis and Andrew Leigh. These interviews occurred to provide material for my series on Australian immigration in the 21st century yet not everything could be incorporated, including the following contributions on asylum policy.

Today’s contribution is from Sam Dastyari and Tim Watts, both new-ish ALP politicians. Both have substantial contributions to make.

Sam Dastyari:

“We have a terrible debate when it comes to asylum seekers. It’s all about inflamed passions, it’s all about playing politics and putting aside international obligations, there has to be a humanitarian angle about a progressive, wealthy, nation being able to take some of the most disadvantaged people in the world. This is the broad context.”

“At no point is there going to be a situation where people don’t want to come to this country. The modern era, the idea that people are going to want to stop coming to Australia is not going to happen. The push pressures are only going to increase as global instability, the impact of climate change in the Pacific, there is always going to be pressures that push and yes you need processes to deal with it. But to keep it in the context we are not actually talking about a huge number of people here.”

“You have got to be careful about not being disingenuous about the long-term impact of this. Some of these arrangements will exist for a period of time but it is hard to see how they are sustainable for 10, 15 years. This will be sustained for awhile and not forever.”

“Unless there is a proper regional based solutions that brings in all of our neighbours in the next 10-15 years, in how we are actually going to set up institutions to deal with this, it’s always going to be, and I think, always going to be playing catch up. If something happens, we react to it.

“The problem is that none of this can be done in an electoral cycle. Understandably, naturally we try and do everything in shorter and shorter cycles. You look at PNG, you look at turn back the boats. All of this is done in a political context, the politics are being played and this has been the case for years now and that is not a good thing.”

Tim Watts:

“It is inarguably true, an immigration policy that in any way prefers or gives advantage to people coming by boat benefits people by geographic luck or financial luck as they are able to take that journey compared to people who have been in Kenyan refugee camps for a decade and can’t get to the next country, let alone the next continent.”

“This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be working very hard on the processing centres in our region to give options to people. But it’s a longer conversation saying these are not bad people however I don’t want attention on boat arrivals to deflect from attention on people who are just as desperate and have been waiting for literally decades.”

“This is a policy area where you are forced to play God. I say to people, I joined the ALP because I believed in a notion of fairness and social justice. I don’t want luck to determine who we are taking. I want there to be at least be an attempt to have a system based on fairness and values. Start from the proposition that there are 40 million refugees in the world and we clearly cannot take everyone. As soon as you say that we are playing God.”

“Frankly, the line that we an enormous country and we can take everyone is utter bullshit. I don’t want to see an Australia that is like Italy, where all the government gives to arrivals is fresh air. You don’t have detention centres but you have these slums around cities, on the outskirts, with no government services, no support. That’s not the Australia I want to live in. With an under-class of non-citizens, I refuse to live in a country like that.”

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