Labor MP breaks ranks on Malaysia deal


By ABC News

A Labor MP has broken ranks with the party over the Federal Government’s Malaysia solution for the first time since the deal was signed, saying it cannot guarantee the safety of asylum seekers.

Anna Burke, the member for Chisholm in Victoria, told the ABC’s Lyndal Curtis on News 24 she has concerns about Australia’s asylum seeker swap deal with Malaysia on a personal level.

Her comments come as the full bench of the High Court prepares to hear a legal case next week challenging the Malaysian swap deal.

The Christmas Island centre is now holding more than 200 asylum seekers slated for transfer to Malaysia, but a High Court injunction on behalf of a group of asylum seekers has put the process in limbo.

Ms Burke says she has been to Christmas Island and there needs to be a proper debate about the issue.

“I am concerned that we can’t really guarantee the safety of the 800 people [being sent to Malaysia],” she said.

“That is my personal concern and I have expressed that in caucus.

“I think we have to have a more rational debate about this asylum seeker crisis. I personally think Manus Island is basically going back to something we said we wouldn’t do, which is the Pacific Solution.”

Ms Burke first expressed her concerns in June and is not the only Labor MP to speak out against the deal.

Melissa Parke, the Federal MP for Fremantle, also said in June that she could not support a deal that was not backed by the United Nation’s refugee agency.

High Court challenge

The legal stoush challenging the swap deal with Malaysia will go before the full bench of the High Court next Monday.

Lawyers are challenging the arrangement on behalf of 42 asylum seekers, who formed the first group that was to be sent to Malaysia.

The High Court injunction has prevented their transfer for the past two weeks.

Federal Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has given an affidavit to the court setting out how he came to the conclusion that he could legally send asylum seekers to Malaysia.