Christian group applauds Liberal backbencher's 'faith stance' on offshore refugees

Russell Broadbent says refugees on Manus and Nauru not taken by US should be resettled in Australia

Asylum seekers protesting on Manus Island, August 15 2017

PHOTO: Supplied

By Chris Shearer

August 18 2017A Christian refugee advocacy group has applauded Federal Liberal backbencher Russell Broadbent’s call to resettle refugees from Manus Island and Nauru in Australia if they are not accepted by the United States.

The Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce (ACRT) said Mr Broadbent’s position reflected a “faithful stance” and called on other members of the Government to follow his example.

In a speech to Parliament yesterday, Mr Broadbent quoted from a David Marr column in Guardian Australia which he said had prompted him to speak out: “Imagine if the Coalition’s big men of faith threatened to tear down their own government unless it brings home the wretches we’ve imprisoned in the Pacific. Surely there couldn’t be a greater service for Christ?”

Mr Broadbent said that he was “happy” with current processes being undertaken by the American Government to resettle up to 1250 refugees under a deal brokered late last year by the Turnbull Government and Obama Administration, and that there would be a “resolution”.

"Once that time comes, it's time for this nation, through its Parliament, to act and resolve the situation on Manus and Nauru," he said.

Asked by Guardian Australia to qualify what action he meant, Mr Broadbent said: “Those who are genuine refugees should be brought home to Australia.”

“Those who aren’t genuine refugees – we need to work hard to find another place for them.”

ACRT Chair and Dean of St John’s Anglican Cathedral Brisbane, Dr Peter Catt, said the taskforce welcomed the call to find a solution that “create[d] safety and dignity” for asylum seekers away from Manus Island and Nauru.

“Neither Nauru nor Manus has the capacity or cultural readiness for integration of the refugees who were sent there. People in both locations continue to live in fear with very few options for safety, dignity and economic stability,” he said.

“Durable solutions must be found in either the US, Australia or another safe location.”

Dr Catt added that ACRT’s position had always been that asylum seekers should have been processed and settled in Australia in the first instance.

Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Melbourne Philip Huggins wrote to Mr Broadbent to thank him for his stance. Bishop Huggins plans to move “a couple of motions on these matters” during the 2017 Anglican General Synod in early September.

Around 1,200 asylum seekers, hundreds of whom have been found to be genuine refugees, remain on Manus Island and Nauru.