By MAMAMIA NEWS
On Friday last week, Labor’s Minister for Immigration, Tony Burke was starting to pack up his office. Presumably the boxes had already been delivered, staff were finishing up on final emails and preparing to move to the Opposition corridors.
On election eve, Minister Burke knew that his party was all but certain to lose in the next day’s polls.
So he decided to use the final minutes of his ministerial power to do something a little bit wonderful.
Burke authorised the release of 38 unaccompanied minors (child asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia without their parents) from detention and into more relaxed and less restrictive community detention. The youngest child released from a detention facility into the community, was 5-years-old.
In an exclusive report from The Australian’s brilliant and handsome Rick Morton (formerly Mamamia’s News Editor) yesterday, it was revealed that the documents authorising the children’s release were signed at 4.45pm on Friday.
Talk about getting in at the last minute.
During his time as Immigration Minister (he only got the job in June of this year after Julia Gillard was replaced by Kevin Rudd triggering a cabinet reshuffle) Mr Burke had made a quiet but significant stand against children being kept in detention. In total, Mr Burke released more than 400 children into the community detention during the less-than-four-months he held the immigration portfolio.
One source told reporter Rick Morton that Minister Burke had also sneakily requested the files of several adult asylum seekers who had been held in detention for significant periods of time. Mr Burke reportedly allowed ‘seven or eight’ of them to move into community detention facilities as well. Some of those individuals had been living in detention centres on the Australian mainland for upwards of three years.
Mr Burke, who following Labor’s election loss, is no longer a Minister but retained his seat in the parliament, told The Australian that:
“It was never about electoral timing but I said to my adviser who I’d asked to do this work to go to the department (of Immigration and Citizenship) and ask what it would take to get the children out of detention.”
“And I said to him, ‘If they tell you it can’t be done, ask them what the blockages are that are standing in the way and then work on a solution to all of those blockages’. I was particularly concerned I would be left with about 75 children in detention, but I got them out and I am very proud of that.”