First Australian election debate: immigration policy, same-sex marriage

Monday, August 12, 2013

Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd
Image: Adam Carr.

Immigration policy and same-sex marriage have been among the issues discussed in the first debate that took place yesterday between Australian Prime Minister and Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd and Liberal leader Tony Abbott.

In the lead-up to the federal election on September 7, both leaders were focused on refugee policy with Abbott attacking Rudd for failing to effectively protect the country’s borders by disbanding border protection agreements implemented by the previous Liberal government.

"It's because Mr. Rudd closed it all down that we’ve had more than 50,000 illegal arrivals," claimed Abbott. "There has been more than 800 boats, 11 billion dollars in budget blow-outs and tragically, more than 1000 deaths at sea."

Rudd claimed that the policy he'd put forward has "one simple principle" behind it: "If you are a people smuggler bringing someone to Australia and you are seeking to settle them in Australia, we will not allow it. They will be sent for processing in Papua New Guinea."

Rudd also used the debate to take a firm stance on same-sex marriage. Pledging that a bill to legalise same-sex marriage would be introduced within 100 days of government, Rudd promised to allow a “full conscience vote” if he were to be re-elected.

Rudd called on the opposition to do the same, describing it as a "mark of decency" and stating that "folk out there want this to happen." Abbott, however, agreed that while same-sex marriage was an "important issue", the economy was a more significant issue.