While the Government reviews next year’s refugee intake in consultation with various refugee groups, NGOs and advisers, the debate could be in danger of being hijacked by the sudden emergence of a new politically volatile Hansonesque issue — the ”Sudanese factor”.

Pauline Hanson weighed in in December with an apparently random observation about African immigrants:

“We’re bringing in people from South Africa at the moment.

“There’s a huge amount coming into Australia who have diseases; they have got AIDS.”

But just how random was that comment? Hanson’s radar is pretty finely tuned on this stuff, or at least the radar of the people advising her.

Just a few days ago Hanson attended the Ballarat birthday party of her former adviser John “Kojak” Pasquarelli, reports The Ballarat Courier:

Ms Hanson raised the ire of migrant groups with comments that Muslims, Sudanese and black South Africans should be stopped from coming to Australia…

“I want to see a stop to the Sudanese and black South Africans that are flooding our country.”

Which means Pasquarelli’s column in the little-read Melbourne Observer takes on new significance. On February 14:

Sudanese refugees have been in the news for all the wrong reasons and suburban and rural Australians have been subjected to cruel social experiments inflicted on them by all levels of government but the blame rests with the Immigration Department. Lawyers are considering whether victims of brutal crimes may have a case for damages against the department and its minister.

And in December:

$500 million a year is being spent on re-settling thousands of Sudanese refugees brought in during 2004 and only 37% of these were medically checked – meanwhile ordinary Australians wait patiently in hospital queues and thousands of carers receive a pittance from government.

So who’s listening? Well, new Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews might be. Interestingly, just one week after assuming his new portfolio, Andrews granted his first substantial interview to Lincoln Wright of The Herald Sun. Wright subsequently wrote a story entitled “LOCK OUT THESE REFUGEE THUGS.”

Australia is set to drastically reduce its Sudanese refugee program this year.

With growing community concern about the behaviour of the refugees, Federal Cabinet will soon consider a proposal from Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews to reduce the intake from Horn of Africa nations.

Australia’s humanitarian program has allowed thousands of Sudanese refugees to come to Australia in recent years.

But there are growing doubts about the wisdom of the decision, especially with the rise of gangs of Sudanese youths and drunk drivers.

The suggestion that Sudanese numbers are to be slashed is taking on a decidedly political bent. Especially as previous Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone already announced in May of last year that there would be slight rebalacing of the mix for 06/07:

We will continue to resettle people in vulnerable situations from around the world, based on priority regions identified with the UNHCR, we can expect to resettle more refugees from Asia and resettlement from Africa is likely to lessen because of the ongoing repatriation of a large number of African nationals.

This announcement came after Vanstone met with women refugees from Myanmar at a UNHCR-run centre in New Delhi, where she “was struck by their plight.”

Vanstone decided to provide more places in the total 13,000 refugee intake to the Karen refugees from Myanmar – hence the rebalancing.

Andrews looks set to carry over that initiative into the next year — but is he scoring some cheap political points along the way?

Peter Fray

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