Gillard to drop Malaysia option if experts recommend
MELBOURNE, July 1 — Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she will take advice from an expert panel looking at the asylum-seeker issue, even if it recommends dumping her government’s Malaysian people swap deal.
Gillard (picture) last week established the panel, made up of former defence chief Angus Houston, former top diplomat Michael L’Estrange and refugee advocate Paris Aristotle, to assess all asylum policy options.
It will look at the Malaysian deal and the opposition-preferred policies — reopening Nauru, reintroducing temporary protection visas and towing back boats — and report back to the government and parliament in August.
“I wouldn’t have done it if I wasn’t in the business of taking the greatest regard possible for what they come out with,” she told ABC Television today.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott on Friday said the panellists were all Australians of “great distinction” but that he would be sticking to his policies regardless of the panel’s findings.
Gillard said Abbott’s position revealed a lot about his “outlook and character”.
“What kind of person is it who watches that misery, watches that pain, sees that death, hears the advice from experts and won’t change their minds one millimetre?
“What kind of person does that?”
The parliament last week failed to pass a bill to restore the government’s power to send asylum seekers offshore despite about 100 people dying in two boat disasters in the past two weeks. — Bernama