Real policy debates can happen away from the glare of the national election campaign, it seems.
And while candidates for the seat of Ballarat did lay out their parties’ policies at Monday night’s forum, there was a real conversation about how best to help our country and our region’s most vulnerable people.
Nationals candidate Paul Tatchell represented the Coalition but did not back the government’s deterrence efforts.
“Here we are, all these years (after trading with Nauru when it was a rich country), and we want to put refugees there. Wanting to give them money, to Nauru, to send them people who have already come from hellholes back into another hellhole?”
“We also need to recognise we don’t have that many refugees (coming),” he said, after describing the thousands of people crossing the Mediterranean to Europe.
Mr Tatchell also said Australia could not go back to allowing people who arrived by boat to settle here because of the deaths at sea.
Labor candidate and MP Catherine King defended her party’s refugee policy by explaining her own personal guilt over those deaths when they were in government.
“Whilst (Labor) will have disagreements with people in this room over offshore processing, we tried a compassionate approach, we tried a different approach when we were in government, and the reality was people did drown, and I have to live with that,” she said.
Ms King answered a question about children in detention by saying a third country option would be the only way for them to be free.
The audience included many from refugee advocacy groups, and Greens candidate Alice Barnes was well-supported when she called for an end to offshore processing.
“It is shameful that people are incarcerated indefinitely simply for asking for help. It defies belief that this is justified as the only way to break the people smugglers’ business model.”
Australian Christians candidate Dianne Colbert and independent Bren Eckel also spoke at the debate. Organisers said Liberal candidate Sarah Wade had a family emergency.
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