"What do you think, should we stop the boats?" was Professor Frank Brennan’s opening line in his recent discussion on Ethical Refugee and Immigration Policy with the inaugural class of ACU Law students in Melbourne.
"It is a bit of an ethical quandary, isn’t it?" he went on to say.
As one of Australia’s leading thinkers on law, ethics and public policy, Professor Frank Brennan has been involved in this discussion for many years.
He is an Australian Jesuit priest, human rights lawyer and Professor in the newly created Faculty of Law with a longstanding reputation of advocacy in the areas of law, social justice, refugee protection and Aboriginal reconciliation.
"Regardless of whether Rudd or Abbott win the forthcoming election, there will be a concerted attempt to stop the boats. The question is how do we limit the ethical damage?" Brennan said.
From a lectern in the new moot court at ACU’s Melbourne Campus, Brennan posed some pertinent questions to the law students.
"Given that people coming by boat do not have right of entry to Australia, can we design a system where we are ethically justified in turning them back? Is it possible to negotiate regional agreements so that those fleeing persecution are appropriately accommodated, processed, and have their claims determined offshore?"
"A goal of the ACU Law program is to challenge our students to think about the major issues that face our society and the role that the law might play," said ACU’s Executive Dean of Law Professor Brian Fitzgerald.
"It was great for the students to have the opportunity to engage in this type of discussion with Professor Frank Brennan in such a personal setting," said Professor Fitzgerald.