Crikey is getting more and more leaks from deep inside the Labor Party these days and this troika of documents on refugee policy gives a fascinating insight into the party’s thinking leading into the last election. With the issue now really hotting up, they are well worth another read.

Labor has made much of its changes to refugee policy and the issue is hotting up.

Newspapers reported last week that Labor’s national executive committee will decide soon whether a resolution calling for a refugee debate, passed by the Queensland ALP administrative committee despite a direct request from Simon Crean for them to desist will be put on the agenda for the October conference, which will discuss the Hawke-Wran review recommendations.

A similar motion is expected to be put shortly to the NSW ALP administrative committee, where Labor Council secretary John Robertson has been pushing for a change of policy, while the Labor for Refugees group is urging federal Labor Members and Senators to support a debate at the conference.

Crean is worried that a conference designed to stamp his authority on the party and support constitutional change will turn into a humiliating repeat of all those state conventions where he has been publicly rebuffed by votes against mandatory detention.

Shadow Immigration Minister Julia Gillard hasn’t helped with her claims that the Opposition was unprepared for events such as September 11 and the Tampa. Many of the comrades are unimpressed.

Some Labor figures claims that the snippets of policy that have emerged from her office like no women and children in Woomera have come from the former shadow minister or been inspired by Gillard’s factional boss, Martin Ferguson.

They also go back to the events of last year where the former leadership group the same as the current lot, minus Kim Beazley and Michael Lee decided it would be smart to endorse policies but not release them until closer to an election including an alternative detention policy approved almost 12 months before Australians had ever heard of the Tampa.

Now, Gillard also has to clear a pile of leaked documents that have made it Crikey’s way if she and the Opposition as a whole are going to have any credibility on the matter.

Refugee policy along with the 60:40 rule is the single biggest issue currently confronting Labor.

Despite this, there are already suspicions that the party’s policy geniuses will simply dust down the little known position papers from the last parliament and quietly resurrect them while taking credit for their content, of course. Which brings us to our documents

We have three items for you to browse. The first document contains the draft policies submitted to the leadership group and keen eyed readers running through it will notice that the alternative detention system submission is dated almost one year before the last election, along with other policy proposals that never saw the light of day.

The second document is a draft version of a policy paper that was eventually absorbed into the larger election document dealing with border protection, but is significant as it contains the raw data dealing with detention centres.

The third and final document is the complete draft policy paper that went to Labor’s leadership group and contains an alternative detention model that was removed and replaced by an emphasis towards a coastguard and diplomatic solutions when the formal policy was released during the election.

Enjoy and let’s see if Labor can come up with anything new.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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