Burnside, a long-time refugee advocate, lambasts the approach of both parties, which he claims are strengthening “the facade” that if Australia creates punitive enough measures “hypothetical arrivals will cease, seeking instead their chance with the Taliban”.

“It’s not the Australia we should strive for,” Burnside adds.

He claims both Labor and Liberal Party ministers are guilty of “grievously’ misleading the public with “false statements” and “gross sensationalism”.

Burnside says that the public debate over asylum seekers was poisoned by the Howard government, who worked to create a sense of injustice and fear around them.

He concedes that border control is a legitimate concern but suggests that 25,000 unauthorised arrivals doesn’t constitute a crisis, rather it represents, he claims, a border control that is 99.3 per cent effective.

Currently refugees are detained at great expense to the Australian taxpayer, and whilst Burnside agrees detainment for initial security and health check is reasonable he believes after this time they should be allowed out and allowed to work in specific geographical regions.

Speaking to Fairfax media later Burnside said: “It’s important to bear in mind that the restriction on work includes voluntary work,”

“And the point of denying a person to do any work, whether paid or not, is about driving them into poverty, but about denying them the simple dignity of being able to be useful.

“In my view the idea of preventing people from working is barbarous,” said Burnside.

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