“You can have strong borders without losing your humanity and that’s what this is about,” the Opposition Leader told the ABC’s 7.30 program on Tuesday night.
The courts have rejected the asylum applications from Nadesalingam, his wife Priya and their two daughters, aged 2 and 4, but refugee advocates have held rallies to demand the government make an exception for the family. A last-ditch bid to stay in Australia will be heard by the Federal Court in Melbourne on Wednesday.
Mr Albanese’s visit to Biloela, where Nadesalingam worked at the local meatworks and his wife volunteered with St Vincent de Paul, could exploit divisions within the Coalition over their fate.
The Nationals MP who represents the area in federal Parliament, Ken O’Dowd, has called for the deportation to be stopped, an argument also made by former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce.
Labor’s home affairs spokeswoman, Kristina Keneally, linked the issue to Mr Morrison’s personal faith by arguing he had introduced his Christianity into the election campaign and should live by it in the case of the Biloela family.
“What I’m calling on and asking the Prime Minister to do is to reflect upon the values he put before the Australian people, that he said he holds dear, and to explain his position within that context,” she told Radio National on Tuesday.
Mr Dutton blasted Labor for trying to make the issue about Mr Morrison’s faith.
“There have been some cheap shots against the Prime Minister, which I think reflect more poorly on
members of the Labor Party than they do anybody else,” Mr Dutton said.
The Home Affairs Minister said the adults had arrived in Australia when Labor was in power and it had put them in detention, saying Mr Albanese wanted to appear compassionate rather than make difficult decisions in the national interest.
“He wants to make himself out to be Mr Compassionate and Mr Popular by telling people what they want to hear,” he said.
While Mr Morrison has suggested the Sri Lankans could apply for visas to migrate to Australia once they returned to their home country, others said this could happen only if they first paid any outstanding debt to the Australian government for the cost of their deportation.
A former deputy secretary of the Department of Immigration, Abul Rizvi, said the government could use its discretion to issue visitor visas to the family members so they could stay in Biloela and gain sponsorship from local employers to stay longer.
David Crowe is chief political correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.