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Crikey Says

Dec 18, 2012

Crikey says: robbing aid to pay for a Solution

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Our foreign aid budget, it seems, is a convenient hollow log for a government desperate to keep its chances of delivering a surplus intact but facing soaring costs from a huge surge in asylum seekers arriving by boat.

Offshore processing of asylum seekers is expensive — extraordinarily so compared to processing here in Australia. In the case of the revamped Pacific Solution, the goal is not processing of any kind but delay — long delays. This makes Australia’s current policy even more expensive.

By funding this exorbitant cost from the foreign aid budget, the government makes the nonsensical argument that looking after refugees in Australia is the same as foreign aid “providing support for refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Sudan”.

Instead what it reflects is that beneficiaries of our foreign aid program have no political clout, and that unlike most areas of the budget there is little political cost to cutting programs intended to help those well below Australian standards of living. For once, Scott Morrison is correct in suggesting this is merely “robbing Peter to pay Paul”, although perhaps the names are a little inapt given what we are describing.

Labor’s asylum seeker policy has led it into some morally dubious areas. Combined with its determination to maintain a surplus, it produces outright absurd outcomes like this.

This article originally referred incorrectly to Nauru and PNG, and has been amended.

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11 thoughts on “Crikey says: robbing aid to pay for a Solution

  1. Liz45

    I disagree with almost EVERY aspect of the Govt’s and Opposition’s so called policy re asylum seekers who arrive by boat – this is relevant! Only about 5% arrive by boat – the rest by air, who are not treated in the same manner. Also, they don’t get hysterical about the approximately 50,000 who are here on any given day illegally – that is, their visas have expired or some other reason.

    The surplus? IF the Govt doesn’t have a surplus the Murdoch press will start or I should say, keep on with their policy of hatred and vilification. So, let’s just accept that the Labor Govt has no choice – if they can claim credibility, because that’s how it will be treated. I can almost see the TV ads now, along with the ones about Peter Slipper, and not one media outlet will challenge the Opposition on this untrue strategy! Let’s not make fact the victim in this debate. Anyone with any nouse knows what’s going on – unless they support the Coalition or are living in a bubble!

    What does the Opposition propose Labor ‘does’ with the asylum seekers? Shoot them? Put them in boats and release them on the ocean? Poison their food or water? It’s just plain ridiculous? They have no choice! The people are here – they need to be housed, fed etc. Plus, they should also be receiving trauma counselling, but probably aren’t. Look forward to health costs blowing out in future years. Kids suffering from awful effects of trauma in their home country only being aggravated by their detention in Australia. This is the legacy of Howard Govt, and will only be heightened by current ‘policies’ of this Govt. Don’t say you weren’t warned! You can’t do this to people without consequences! Those consequences will cost!

    When will a journalist question the Coalition on their Treasury statements re the cost of Nauru and Mannus Island, plus detention centres on home soil and community ‘detention’ costs. IF people don’t know that keeping people in detention is far more expensive than community detention, they should educate themselves. Also, Christmas Island (built by the Howard Govt – how much?) costs approximately $1000 per person per day, while Villawood is less than $300 per day, and community detention per person per day is the cheapest! Go figure!

    In recent times, men who viciously murder their wives have pleaded ‘provocation’ and sentenced to 6 years or less. Asylum seekers who’ve committed no crime by seeking asylum could be locked up(jailed) for at least 5 years! We have SO much to be proud of?????NOT!

  2. alison lovai

    Both major parties have taken a hard line stance surrounding asylum seekers. The Liberal Party continually beats down on ALP’s policies, fueling the misguided notion that asylum seekers are ‘illegal non-citizens’ and boat operators are ‘people smugglers’. These terms are contrary to the international covenant for refugees and their right to seek asylum. The UN protocol defines ‘people smuggling’ as women and children who are sold into sexual slavery or people who are smuggled across borders against their will. Australia only shares 0.6 percent the world’s burden of refugee’s equivalent to two weeks population growth for Australia. In comparison Italy, Spain, Greece and Malta share the burden of 72,000 asylum seekers arriving along their coastline each year.
    Current management creates a huge burden to tax payers, particularly surrounding offshore detention which costs around $110,000 per year, per asylum seeker. In comparison community detention would cost as little as $20,000 in centrelink payments. Other costs include legal representation and charter flights costing between $20,000 and $100,000, used to ferry asylum seekers to and from island detention and for emergency medical evacuation. Increased aid packages to Nauru and PNG may be short lived due to the government’s intention to pull back aid to other countries to use for asylum seeker management in Australia. So the government will now conveniently takes ownership of the ‘illegal non-citizens’ in a deceptive bid to save money. It takes $2000 to save one refugee overseas, so do the sums for the lives that will be lost.

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