Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton are at odds over the fate of a Tamil family urgently fighting the Federal Government’s attempt to deport them to Sri Lanka.
- Supporters of the family have been urging Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to reconsider their case
- Mr Dutton said that would encourage the people smuggling trade
- The family is on Christmas Island as it makes a last-minute bid to avoid deportation
The family is currently being housed on Christmas Island, as lawyers launch a last-ditch legal effort to allow them to stay in Australia.
Supporters of the family have been urging Mr Dutton and Immigration Minister David Coleman to reconsider the case, and use their ministerial discretion to intervene.
“I know that Minister Dutton is in such a vexed position, because of the boats coming in from Sri Lanka, the decision that has been made that the parents were not qualified as asylum seekers,” Mr Joyce told Channel Seven.
“But that’s the parents, not the children.
“Time has moved on.”
The argument appears unlikely to sway the Home Affairs Minister, who has cited repeated court rulings that the parents were not owed protection as refugees.
“I understand the compassion shown by many, but we have to look at this case on its merit,” Mr Dutton told Channel Nine.
“There’s no indication at all that’s been given to this family, including before they had children, that they would ever settle in this country.
“Over a period of time, both Minister Coleman and myself have looked at this case, and it’s completely without merit in terms of their claim to be refugees.”
‘Like a policeman deciding not giving a speeding fine’
Mr Joyce, now a backbench Nationals MP, said the family was valued by the community in the regional Queensland town of Biloela.
He argued the Minister had discretion to overturn the deportation, and said it would not set a precedent.
“If I’m driving … and I’m going at 140 kilometres an hour to get a child to the hospital, the policeman has a constabulary right,” he said.
“He can say ‘look, you should slow down, you are against the law, we’re not going to change the law for you’.
“‘But because of other circumstances, completely beyond what we would generally accept, we will let you off this time, don’t do it again.'”
Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese said on Sunday he had personally raised the matter with Prime Minister Scott Morrison as the pair travelled to Timor Leste for celebrations marking 20 years since the country voted for independence from Indonesia.
Mr Dutton hit out at suggestions the family had been moved to Christmas Island in a bid to thwart their legal challenge, describing it as a “spurious claim” by lawyers and advocates.
“We had a difficult situation in Melbourne, as I’m advised, one of the protesters had cut the fence trying to get into the airport,” he said.
“It makes for a very dangerous situation for the Border Force officials who are put in a difficult position, because again these advocates lie about the way in which this family’s been treated.
“[Claims] that they’ve been forced and that they’ve been pulled by the Border Force officials — it’s a complete nonsense.”
He argued moving the family to Christmas Island made sense considering the disruption being caused by protesters picketing airports and other facilities.