THE debate about asylum seekers has become more political than it should be, Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott says.
Mr Oakeshott made the comment during a discussion about the politics at play behind Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s decision to shy away from a “big Australia”.
He said much of the debate around asylum seekers had been misguided.
“If you spend time looking at it, we in Australia are the moat people,” Mr Oakeshott said.
“The very fact that you have to get in a boat to get to Australia means we have much less of an issue than most other countries in the world.”
Mr Oakeshott believed the focus of debate should be on how quickly asylum seekers were processed.
The fact that questions about where and when they were processed had arisen made the subject a hot political topic, he said.
“In my view, if we are specifically talking about immigration strategy, if we were resourcing key departments to process genuine refugees within international standards, which are 90 days, this would not be a political issue,” he said.
“There are some strong views locally, but I suspect if they were given strong guarantees that processing would be done in 90 days, it would not be the issue it currently is.”
Meanwhile, Mr Oakeshott agreed it was time to review Australia’s population policy, with an emphasis on infrastructure planning and services.
He said population considerations should be “at the heart” of all government policy, and emphasised that it was not just an immigration issue.
“It’s a passive population policy we’ve got, where we don’t put a figure and we don’t engineer an outcome. We respond to what’s happening in both birth rates and immigration,” Mr Oakeshott said.
“So I really do think we need to be more explicit in defining our population, and, as a consequence of that, we can be more strategic in where we put our roads and hospitals and how we deliver good education.”