Immigration

Labor to increase refugee intake in compromise on asylum seekers

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Bill Shorten has confirmed Labor would increase Australia's refugee intake.

Australia would accept 4,000 more refugees a year under a Labor government, but the opposition's commitment to boat turn-backs and offshore detention remains. 

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten made the announcements in his speech to the party's annual state conference in Adelaide. 

"We understand that keeping our borders secure and keeping the people smugglers out of business should and has never meant leaving men, women and children to languish for years and years in indefinite detention in substandard facilities and unacceptable conditions," Mr Shorten told party faithful. 

The expansion of a community-based refugee program from 1000 to 5000 places is part of a compromise deal between the party's dominant Left and Right factions to avoid a damaging public debate on asylum seeker policy. 

A group called Labor4Refugees had tried to change the Labor Party's policy to "end all offshore detention" and cease turning back boats.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has outlined key Labor policies ahead of next year's election.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has outlined key Labor policies ahead of next year's election.
AAP

The program allows state and local governments, community organisations, businesses, unions and faith-based organisations to sponsor humanitarian entrants into Australia.

Labor would also commit an extra $500 million to the UN's refugee agency. 

Mr Shorten said he would look to take up New Zealand's offer to resettle refugees from Nauru and Manus Island immediately on similar terms with the United States agreement.

Newstart review

The Labor leader also promised to release the findings of the Newstart review within 18 months of taking power.

"We believe in the greatness of the Australian safety net," Mr Shorten said.

Some Left faction members were pushing for a rise in the unemployment payment, which hasn't risen in real terms since 1994, prompting advocacy groups to call for a $75-a-week increase on the current rate of $275.

But Mr Shorten's factional allies appear to have secured a backroom victory on Newstart and refugees to ensure the opposition Leader has his way five months out from the federal election.

The party promised to abolish the controversial Community Development Program work-for-the-dole scheme meant to help indigenous people in remote Australia.

It will be replaced because Labor says it punishes indigenous job seekers compared to their city-based counterparts.

Labor also committed to establishing a voice to parliament designed by indigenous people and enshrined in the constitution.

On the first day of the conference on Sunday, Mr Shorten promised to subsidise the building of 250,000 new affordable homes, and a crackdown on dodgy bosses who steal superannuation.

 

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