Assessment of the Policies of the Major Parties towards Refugees

Refugee Policies by Political Party

We have been asked to make an assessment of the policies of the major parties towards refugees. The crosses are where we think the policy is wrong and the ticks are where we approve. RAC is not calling for a vote for any party. However, the graphic above summarises how we think the Liberals, Labor and the Greens rate on six of the major issues concerning refugee policy. We’ve included several points here related to these areas for further clarification.

(i) Temporary protection visas (TPVs) and Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEVs) mean that refugees spend years of uncertainty on them. Labor and the Greens have both called for them to be abolished and replaced with permanent protection.

(ii) Labor has a policy on mandatory detention which says: “Labor will strive to ensure this is for no longer than 90 days.” It also says that: “Detention that is indefinite or otherwise arbitrary is not acceptable” and that “detention in an immigration detention centre is only to be used as a last resort and for the shortest practicable time.” But there is no “hard” limit. The Liberals mention no limit of any kind. The Greens oppose mandatory detention. Labor policy also says that “every humanly practical effort will be taken to remove children and their families from immigration detention centres”. But this is not an absolute ban and there is no time limit on the detention of children other than the aspiration to limit it to 90 days. In the US, there is a court-enforced ban on detention of children past 20 days.

(iii) Labor policy supports offshore detention/processing. However, this is not immediately obvious from its platform, which also says that “Protection visa applications made in Australia should be assessed by Australians on Australian Territory” and that “Labor will ensure asylum seekers who arrive by irregular means will not be punished for their mode of arrival.” Both of these appear to rule out offshore detention. However, the platform also says that: “To support Australia’s strong border security regime, Labor will maintain… an architecture of excised offshore places…” This is the means by which offshore detention is allowed back into the policy since applications made even in Australian territory will be deemed (as is the case now) not to have been made in Australia.

There are many other aspects of refugee policy which we haven’t had space to deal with here. But we hope this is helpful.

Sources: Image sourced from, “Election 2016” by Photographer Leonard J Matthews, used under license