A year ago, Greens leader Richard Di Natale despaired at federal inaction for those in detention centres.
That has all changed.
He used a Greens Kids Off Nauru event in Bendigo on Thursday night to call for locals to pressure elected representatives into changing offshore processing policies.
He singled out Labor representatives, saying they will likely form government at the next election.
Senator Di Natale said many Labor officials will feel pressure to review policies ahead of their national conference in December.
Recent campaigns at grassroots levels including Bendigo’s Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children and others by medical groups like the Australian Medical Association had galvinised the public by putting faces to those in detention, Senator Di Natale said.
Last week, the government signalled all children would be off Nauru by year’s end – evidence, Senator Di Natale said, that campaigns are having an effect.
“There’s definitely a shift going on in the community right now. You can feel the pressure piling on both (major) parties and for the first time you are starting to see them give some ground,” he said.
Bendigo paediatrician Joel Ziffer also shared his views at Thursday’s event.
Dr Ziffer was concerned about Nauru’s medical facilities and with “incarcerating children”.
“The government has given every indication they will remove children from Nauru. That is a positive step but it is only in response to community pressure that has been happening,” he said.
“It doesn’t deal with the underlying issue. We are still leaving a lot of really vulnerable people who have come seeking help on Nauru and Manus.”
“Pathetic politics by the Greens”: Chesters
Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters dismissed Senator Di Natale’s calls for pressure on Labor.
“Richard Di Natale is in Bendigo to generate support for the Greens for the upcoming Victorian state election,” she said.
Ms Chesters said he was attempting to pinch votes off the ALP, branding the attempt “pathetic politics by the Greens, who think people in Bendigo can’t tell the difference between state and federal issues.”
She said her views on asylum seekers are well documented and that their treatment by the government has “just been appalling and should be condemned”.
She said it was rich of Di Natale to call for pressure on Labor when the Greens “exclude” the media and public from attending their equivalent national conference.
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