Independent Senator Nick Xenophon had harsh words to say about parliament’s debate on asylum seekers this week.
Senator Xenophon was unhappy with the government’s amended proposal to send refugees to Malaysia and re-open Nauru but said it was preferable to the current situation of more rickety boats coming to our shores.
“This compromise might stink but the stench of death is worse,” he said.
Xenophon, who previously supported onshore processing of asylum seekers as a “more humane approach”, shifted his support as a way to move policy forward rather than do nothing.
From his hospital bed, he told Adelaide Now “doing nothing is not an option, something’s got to give”.
“Politicians should accept that you need to lose a bit of face to save a few lives,” he said.
Suffering from an inner ear condition that prevented him from attending parliament, Xenophon pushed for a policy change and to stop “petty pissant” politicians from stalling action.
The Opposition and the Greens were demanding humanitarian safeguards, as the government would send refugees to Malaysia, not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention.
Despite marginally pushing through the House of Representatives, by a vote of 74 to 72, the Bill failed to win the Senate’s approval.
Furious debates in parliament during the week were set against the news that another boat was sinking off the shores of Indonesia.
With the rescue effort complete, Australian Maritime Safety Authority said they recovered one body.
Based on information from the survivors, including crew members, it is now believed that there were 134 people on board and that three people went down with the vessel.
All of the survivors are being taken to Christmas Island.
This comes barely a week after another boat went down with 200 people on board. Rescuers managed to save 110 people and recovered 17 bodies, but no other survivors were found.
Labor backbencher Steve Georganas believes with the bill not passed, time now should be spent on tailoring a better policy that will please both parties and stop migrants taking the dangerous route to Australia.
“We are hoping … that the messages that we take back to our political leadership team is a serious message where we are asking to sit down, clear the slate and ensure that we work for a solution,” he said.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard was definitely angered by the senate result. With policy unchanged, the boats will still be on route to Australia.
“I don’t want to see a 13-year-old girl drown at sea in the weeks between now and when this parliament comes back in the spring. We’ve seen too many people lose their lives at sea. We have to act,” she said.