A government backbencher has broken ranks with his party to call for the number of humanitarian visa spots allocated for Afghans fleeing the Taliban to be significantly raised.
Liberal MP John Alexander says his government should follow the example of previous prime ministers that created special programs to take in scores of refugees, including Tony Abbott, under whom an intake of 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees was announced.
Bob Hawke and Malcolm Fraser also created dedicated programs for Chinese and Vietnamese refugees.
The federal government has allocated just 3,000 places this financial year in its humanitarian program for at-risk Afghans in a move that falls short of commitments made by other countries.
“We agreed to accept 12,000 additional refugees from Syria over and above our annual refugee quota in 2015,” Mr Alexander said in a statement on Friday.
“If we can accept 12,000 from Syria, we can certainly accept more than that for our brothers and sisters now suffering in Afghanistan.
“We have a duty to provide sanctuary to Afghan refugees, as Australia played its own small part in the creation of the situation that we now see before us. It’s a matter of national honour.”
The federal government has said it is open to taking in more Afghan refugees than the 3,000 it has so far pledged, but has not given a figure for how much it could be increased to.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said the figure was a “floor, not a ceiling” and the allotment could increase.
Refugee advocacy groups and members of the Afghan community have also called for a more generous intake.
The Catholic Bishops Conference has also joined calls for the allotment to increase in line with Canada’s pledged 20,000.
The government says it has granted more than 8,500 visas to Afghans through Australia’s humanitarian program since 2013.