Asylum minister's daughter protests at hardline policy

The daughter of the Australian Immigration Minister, Philip Ruddock, is so dismayed by his hardline views on refugees that she has left the country to work for an overseas aid organisation.

Kirsty Ruddock, a 30-year-old lawyer and human rights campaigner, accused her father of lacking compassion and failing to treat asylum-seekers as human beings. In a television documentary broadcast last night, she said: "It's very difficult for me to be his daughter because ... I have very different views from him."

Mr Ruddock has been the public face of the government's tough refugee policies, adopted after the Tampa controversy a year ago. He has also made plain that he is ideologically in tune with those policies, although he once had a reputation as a liberal. The Tampa, a Norwegian freighter carrying Afghan asylum-seekers, was refused permission to land on Australian soil and its occupants were dispersed on islands around the Pacific. Ms Ruddock said in the programme, which examined tensions within her family, that she had been appalled by the government's handling of the incident.

With regard to her father, she said: "I find it hard to reconcile some of the things he is doing at the moment with some of the things that he's taught me to believe in. Obviously I love my dad, but sometimes you do feel a bit let down that you can't change his view on things and that you're not getting through to him."

Ms Ruddock gave up her job as a government lawyer and left Sydney last Saturday to work as a volunteer for an aid organisation, Youth Ambassadors, in an unspecified country. She said in the interview, recorded before she left, that she had always wanted to work in a developing country. But her departure was also motivated by a desire to "get away from ... the daily grind in terms of reading about the politics that my father is involved in on a daily basis".

Ms Ruddock said she was very much opposed to the government's policy of detaining all asylum-seekers, including women and children, in remote Outback camps. She said she had raised the issue with her father.

Ms Ruddock, who wore a T-shirt with the slogan "No children in detention" during the interview, said she had asked her father – a member of Amnesty International – to refrain from wearing his Amnesty badge when speaking on immigration matters.

Mr Ruddock told the programme that he was proud of Kirsty and her younger sister, Caitlin. "I don't expect my family to be parrots," he said. "I'm proud of the fact that she does care ... but I do expect that they would also recognise that I have specific responsibilities for Australia."

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