Abbott Government Vows to Circumvent Senate Block on Temporary Protection Visas for Refugees

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By Sunny Peter | December 3, 2013 4:59 PM EST

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, on Tuesday, vowed to adopt measure to circumvent the Senate block on the government's proposed temporary protection visa (TPV). Reacting to the Senate disallowance of the measure, he, however, did not specify what measure the government intended to adopt.

Under provisions of the proposed TPV, now stalled by Senate, refugees identified to have illegally entered into Australia will be allowed to stay in the country for three years after which their refuges status will be reviewed.

The proposed law is expected to affect about 33,000 people who landed on Australian shores before the Labor government announced the offshore resettlement plan with Papua New Guinea in late July.

Opposition immigration spokesman Richard Marles said the PNG arrangements had rendered the TPV regime redundant.

"The reality is that from the time that the PNG arrangement has been put in place, the whole policy of TPVs became redundant," he is reported to have said.

The proposal failed in the Senate after Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young successfully moved a disallowance motion.

Describing the visa regime as cruel, she termed it as an effort to punish the most vulnerable and genuine.

"All they did was punish the most vulnerable, the most genuine, the most deserving refugees simply for having dared seek protection for their families," she said.

"Refugees on TPVs often refer to living in fear of being returned home back to the dangers they fled in the first place," Ms Hanson-Young said, calling the Senate blockage as a win for decency and a win for fairness.

The Greens have vowed to defeat any measures the government will try to implement to circumvent the Senate.

"[The visas] separate families, mothers and fathers from newborns," she said.

"They keep children in detention, they stop children from going to school and this is just one more step in their toolbox of cruelty.

"We've put an end to TPVs today. We'll take on the next battle because fairness should prevail," she said.

The Howard-era TPV legislation was abolished by the former Labor government and its reimplementation has been a key election promise for the Coalition led by Mr Abbott.

Reacting to the Senate rejection, Mr Abbott said the Government has a "whole range of measures" available to counter the Senate decision, some of which the government promised to announce "shortly."

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