Kevin Rudd says October close for Manus is three years too late

Immigration minister Peter Dutton has revealed Papua New Guinea's detention centre on Manus Island will close by the end of October.


File image of former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd. Source: AAP

The federal government's immigration detention centre on Manus Island will close by the end of October, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has revealed.

The Papua New Guinea centre was due to close late in 2017, but Mr Dutton revealed the specific timing late on Wednesday night.

"Manus Island is due to close by the end of October. I've been very clear about that and that is what we're going to achieve," Mr Dutton told Sky News, adding the timing relies on the United States accepting asylum seekers after September 30.

But former prime minister Kevin Rudd said the refugees held on Manus Island should have been resettled in Australia three years ago.

Mr Rudd signed the deal that underpins the Manus agreement with the PNG Government in 2013, advancing the Gillard Government's deal by declaring asylum seekers who arrived by boat would never be settled in Australia. 

But Mr Rudd says he only intended the Manus arrangement to last for one year, and the Abbott and Turnbull governments should have brought it to a close. 

"It was explicitly designed as a one year agreement," he wrote in a republished from November last year. 

"Any extension of the agreement beyond a year would be reliant on the annual reviews that would have examined both Australia’s and PNG’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, consistent with their international obligations." 

Tom Clarke, the director of campaigns at the Human Rights Law Centre, tweeted to Mr Rudd: "Excuse me?"

"At the time you said they would have no chance of ever being settled in Aust. Your deliberately cruel limbo unfolded as predicted."

The former prime minister told ABC Radio on Thursday he was “tired of being held to account” for what he calls the poor management of immigration detention on Manus Island under the Coalition.

“The implementation of the agreement fell down appallingly under Abbott, who adopted an utterly punitive approach to asylum seekers, and then subsequent to that, Turnbull has sought to continue the political advantage by keeping people in appalling conditions for a long period of time,” Mr Rudd said.

Mr Rudd said subsequent abuses on Manus would have prompted his Government to scrap the deal, and consider settling the Manus population in Australia.

"If it had been implemented in a manner, by the 12 month point, which did not meet UNHCR standards, as were included in the Australia-PNG agreement, it would have been stopped forthwith.

“What you now have is three years’ worth of subsequent abuse of that agreement by these people and it is absolutely legally and ethnically wrong for various parties to seek to hold our government at the time (responsible) for the implementation actions of Abbott and Turnbull.”

 - with AAP

3 min read
Published 20 July 2017 at 7:14am
By James Elton-Pym
Source: SBS