Although much of the time the two largest parties in Australia are depressingly indistinguishable, occasionally, on certain issues, a change in government really does make a difference.
A BILL to abolish detention debts for refugees are set to pass the Senate and the Coalition will splinter over its hardline position in the lower house.
Almost $9 million in debt will be lifted from as many as 474 refugees, who are charged for the cost of their own detention.
I have blogged before on the indefensible hounding of Mr Wililo. The policy to be overturned was a petty, spiteful act of vindictiveness by the former government, in which innocent people were charged ridiculous sums for their involuntary detention – despite the fact that it didn’t even make economic sense: it actually cost the government more than it recovered.
The legislation is set to pass the Senate today. The Greens have long called for such a bill. The ALP is finally supporting one. Even Fielding and Xenophon are on board. And more than a few Coalition members are going to vote for it.
It’s difficult to imagine a more thorough repudiation by the national parliament of Howard-era bastardry, and – in this week of distractions like TURIPS, it’s good to see our representatives actually doing something worthwhile with their time.
UPDATE: There’s a special place in hell waiting for Sharman Stone:
The Opposition’s immigration spokeswoman, Sharman Stone, says instead of abolishing debt collection the Government should find better ways of collecting the money.
“There is no doubt that announcing to the region that this Rudd Labor regime is abolishing the 17-year-old policy of recovering detention debt, there’s no doubt that would bring great joy to the people smugglers who are once again very active in our waters,” she said.
“Abolishing the detention debt principle is going to remove one more deterrent in the way of people smugglers, arguing now that Australia has a wide open back door.”
He raises a good point – isn’t it good to have Andrew Bolt out of the country when injustices are being righted? Andy would be busy convincing his sheep that the only way to keep our borders safe (he’d probably put it in terms of his newfound professed concern about the safety of people on boats) is to hound legitimate refugees with ridiculous bills until the day they die.
UPDATE: The bill on which the original policy was based was passed by the Keating government in 1992 – so there’s another lot who should be looking forward to a deserved bit of roasting when their time is up.