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PM’s smuggler comments censured

PM’s smuggler comments censured

Barrister Stephen Keim has labelled Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's comments on people smugglers "undesirable".Rudd condemned people smugglers after the fatal boat blast near Ashmore reef last week,…

Barrister Stephen Keim has labelled Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's comments on people smugglers "undesirable".

Rudd condemned people smugglers after the fatal boat blast near Ashmore reef last week, which killed five people, and left dozens more injured. He said people smugglers were engaged in the world's most evil trade and should all rot in jail because they represented the absolute scum of earth.

Keim, who represented Dr Mohamed Haneef when he was accused of involvement in terrorist activities, told Lawyers Weekly that such remarks have the potential to jeopardise future trials.

"The Prime Minister has, no doubt, thought that his comments concerning 'people smugglers' assisted the debate by not focusing blame on refugees. Such intemperate remarks are, however, undesirable," he said.

"The remarks also fail to distinguish between the act of breaking laws against people smuggling and whether or not, in breaking those laws, the person did all that they could to protect the safety of the persons from whom they took money. As in every other category of conduct, there are differences and degrees in actions and motivation."

Keim said Australians had overwhelmingly supported the Government's rejection of policies from former Prime Minister John Howard's time in office, such as "the unlimited detention of children in intolerable conditions" and the ending of the practice of sending people to Nauru and remote islands off the coast of Papua new Guinea.

"We should resist any temptation to panic the moment a boat or two appears on the horizon. The overwhelming proportion of asylum-seekers who have arrived by boat have turned out to be genuine refugees," he said.

"It is important that the response of each one of us takes into account the desperate need of each person that causes them to leave their homes in the first place and to travel in dangerous boats to reach Australia."

He added that the true facts of the explosion last week should be sought and that the tragedy of the people who were injured and lost their lives or loved ones should not be overlooked.

- Sarah Sharples

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