Asylum seekers:

Migration agent Marion Le writes: Re. Friday’s Editorial. The  issue of bridging visas is especially complicated but I must correct the claim that people on bridging visas have a right to living allowances — this is simply NOT true — the person who said this may be confusing those who have been put into community detention programs with asylum seekers (and others) who come by plane and are bridging visa holders.

No such payments are currently available to people on bridging visas unless they qualify on narrow criteria as especially vulnerable and make application through the Red Cross for access to DIAC funds. The people in community detention to date are not on visas, which is why they are detained — they are paid allowances to enable them to live in the community under the administration of the Red Cross and other such bodies in co-operation with the DIAC — but they are still legally detainees who do not hold visas of any sort.

That is why Julia’s announcement signalled a change — people will not be detained but will be released on bridging visas — hence my analogy to the temporary protection visas … the people so far given access to community detention are those who have been found to be refugees but have not been either security or health cleared and who have not be able to apply for protection visas.

The process could take years … a rose by any other name smells just the same …

Matt Brennan writes: Yes it seems weird that the federal government is pursuing a more humane and indeed cost-effective policy of processing asylum seekers onshore. But the discourse that this outcome has arisen because of political knavery and stupidity, while terribly amusing, seems to have missed a few points.

Since the recent High Court ruling, it was apparent that the legislation, introduced by the previous government please note, would have to be changed if offshore processing could be resumed in any form. It was also obvious that quite a few people in the House of Reps weren’t going to support any resumption of offshore processing and the federal opposition was only going to support amendments to the legislation on its terms.

So the federal government puts up amendments that no one is going to support and when this becomes apparent, (was it ever not?) withdraws the legislation. Blundering or a successful application of wedge politics?

Abbott of course has been calling for Julia Gilliard to resign and call an election. Again.

Kerry Thompson writes: Among all the finger pointing and shallow analysis directed at Prime Minister Gillard and the Labor Party over not being able to carry through the policy of offshore detention of asylum seekers, has no one given thought that we may have just witnessed the best “long game” played in federal politics in many years.

Gillard’s and Labor’s policy has always been in favour of onshore processing. However, they inherited a nasty, selfish piece of policy that if they simply reversed it, would have allowed Abbott to hold them responsible for every boat that arrived (or sank on its way). Now, onshore processing is the fault of the Liberal Party not supporting Labor’s “Malaysia solution”. It kills it as a real issue and returns us finally to pre-Howard refugee policy (no matter how much both party’s squeal otherwise). A brief discomfort for the Prime Minister in a week otherwise surrounded by euphoric wins!

I could, of course, be wrong and decent policy has been restored by default, but I really would like to think that they’ve actually played a bit of decent Machiavellian twist on the Liberals to get them to destroy their own policy.

Pokies reform:

Marcus Ogden writes: Re. “Counting the cost of a pokies Greens Lantern” (Friday, item 2). Andrew Crook seems unaware that Andrew Wilkie’s original pokies reform proposal to Julia Gillard was for maximum $1 bet machines, not for mandatory pre-commitment. Pre-commitment was Labor’s counter-offer to Wilkie, based on the Productivity Commission’s recommendations. The Greens’ policy announcement on Friday in favour of $1 bet limits actually brings them into line with Wilkie’s own preference.

Anyway, either reform would be most welcome. If $1 bet limits are harder for the clubs’ lobby to mount a fear campaign against, then I’m all for it.

Peter Fray

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