NEWS Top team urges senators to just say no- The Age
BUSINESS leaders, a former prime minister, academics, lawyers, scientists and even a footballer have urged the Senate to reject the Government's tough new border protection laws.
The group, including former Australian of the Year, scientist Gus Nossal, yesterday wrote to all senators, asserting the legislation was at odds with "fundamental principles of justice, compassion and fairness".
The co-ordinator of the group, Hugh Evans, has also spoken with Family First senator Steve Fielding, whose vote could decide whether the legislation is passed next week.
Senator Fielding will weigh up his decision over the weekend after he and his wife, Susan, met West Papuan refugee Yunus Wainggai and his four-year-old daughter Anikie yesterday afternoon.
The Victorian senator said it was helpful to hear directly from someone who had been "obviously fleeing for their life" and that he was "richer" for the experience of hearing Mr Wainggai's account of the perilous journey by boat with his daughter to Australia.
Several Coalition senators have expressed concern about the legislation but only one, Victorian Liberal Judith Troeth, has signalled that she is likely to vote against the legislation.
Because the Government has a majority of one, a vote against the new laws by Senator Troeth would be cancelled out if Senator Fielding voted with the Government. Other Coalition senators who have concerns include Liberals Marise Payne and Russell Trood, who has discussed his worries with Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone, and the Nationals' Barnaby Joyce.
Mr McKeon, Macquarie Bank's executive director, told The Age he had followed the issue for some time but had not "outed" himself before now. "With this proposed bill, I am far from persuaded that it is responding to any actual need and I'm concerned that it really is a sledgehammer approach," he said.
"I'm not sure why, for example, a family of Papuans that somehow can get hold of a Cessna and fly to Cape York are then treated differently from their neighbours who could only get hold of a speedboat."
Under the proposed law, all unauthorised boat arrivals will be processed on the remote island of Nauru, without access to the Australian legal system.
Senator Vanstone said yesterday the Government had already made concessions to critics, but was prepared to talk to those with concerns over the weekend. "I'm still waiting for the list of what people on the other side are prepared to concede," she said.
Among those urging senators to oppose the legislation are World Vision chief executive Tim Costello, former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, Orica director Peter Duncan, Melbourne Football Club chairman Paul Gardiner, lawyer Julian Burnside and former footballer Wayne Schwass.
Mr Mercer, a former chief executive of the ANZ Bank who is chairman of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, said he found the Government's approach "beyond the pale" and would do all he could to persuade the senators opposing the laws that they were not alone.
Mr Evans, a former Young Australian of the Year, said he hoped Senator Fielding could provide moral leadership on the issue.
Senator Fielding said he was finding the issue "really difficult". "You're talking about people here, so you've got to make sure you are weighing up this idea of making sure that we do have some control on our borders and a strong system of determining who does and doesn't come," he said.
But there was also a need to ensure it was "fair to everybody no matter how they've come".
Michael Gordon and Andra Jackson