Onshore processing:

Sandi Logan, Immigration spokesman writes: Re. “Crikey clarifier: what’s a bridging visa?” (14 October, item 3) & Marion Le (Monday, comments). There has plenty of misinformation circulating since last week’s announcement of a move towards onshore processing and Crikey, Marion Le and Jennifer Burn have got some of it wrong too.

1) Those people who are currently under “community detention arrangements” are a mix of people. Some are on what we call a positive pathway and are heading for a visa; others have been found not to be refugees and are at various stages of review (i.e., on a negative pathway). Some have applied for protection and some have not. No-one is placed in community detention until all relevant checks have been undertaken and they have been assessed as not being a risk to the community. The same case-by-case assessment would apply to anyone being assessed on their suitability to reside in the community on a bridging visa.

2) Next, there is the issue of “welfare” for people on bridging visas: point being, they do not receive welfare payments. The living allowance for which an irregular maritime arrival (IMA) granted a bridging visa may — not is, but may — be eligible is managed through the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme, which the department funds and Red Cross, under contract administers. For those who are eligible for this, the allowance is paid at a rate of 89 per cent of the Centrelink special benefit, but is not paid by Centrelink. The expectation is that most people living in the community would support themselves.

3) Claims that a bridging visa is like a temporary protection visa are scurrilous. Ms Le would well know what a bridging visa is and what it is used for; it is a temporary visa that is granted to people — under a range of circumstances — while they await an outcome or make arrangements to return home. Its meaning should be taken literally — “bridging” so as to provide passage over a gap. The government’s policy that those who are found to be owed Australia’s protection will be granted permanent protection visas is unchanged. Jennifer Burn is also wrong in her assertion that a person granted a temporary protection visa could more easily apply for other types of visas while on a TPV. Every TPV granted under circumstances in the past  included a mandatory condition (regulation 785.611) which required that: “The holder cannot be granted a substantive visa other than a protection visa.”

4) In terms of paperwork and costs, there will be no paperwork for an IMA to complete for a bridging visa. As an IMA cannot make an application for a bridging visa, it would be the minister exercising his personal powers to grant such a visa. He is able, at that stage, to impose conditions on that visa, such as work rights. There are still significant costs associated with processing people in the community. Although it is correct that detention is more expensive, the idea that bridging visas cost 90 per cent less than detention is a both an exaggeration, and without any evidence to support it. Furthermore, visa processing in the community will be no faster than in detention — the key factors that affect the processing of refugee claims are the volume of cases and the availability of information. Non-IMA protection visas are generally able to be processed faster than IMA protection claims because the person has identity documents and their claims are more easily verified. IMA claims may be more difficult to verify, so while the number of people arriving by boat, especially without identity documentation, remains high, claims can take longer to process — regardless of whether the person is in detention or in the community.

The Occupy movement:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Occupy movement is like the internet from which it emerged” (yesterday, item 9). Bernard Keane acts assured that his analysis of the Occupy movement is accurate but provides little evidence.

For all the talk about new politics since the end of the Cold War and new social interaction since the advent of the Internet, the most obvious fact about the current political landscape is the lack of activism, the smallness of demonstrations. Does anyone with any historical memory seriously believe that the GFC would have caused such a little stir in the ’70s or ’80s?

But, oh, there’s a few hundred people twittering their way into world history …

Economically illiterate:

Arnold Freedman writes: Re. “Productivity needs a shot in the arm — why not a GST boost?” (yesterday, item 3). I would like to complain about Adam Creighton’s article of October 18 for gross hypocrisy in calling the Australian Senate economically illiterate. Arguing that the most pointless, economically damaging and regressive tax in Australia’s already pointless, economically damaging and regressive tax system should be extended and increased clearly makes this Creighton character the economic illiterate.

That a supposedly “independent” media outlet should give voice to such mean spirited, sadistic vested interests should give Crikey cause for self-reflection on the value of its integrity in the Australian media landscape. I would suggest offering a right-of-reply to someone of credible economic standing immediately. The likes of Bill Mitchell from the University of Newcastle or Frank Stilwell of the University of Sydney spring to mind.

Labor and Greens:

John Hunwick writes: Re. “Greens take the agenda because no one else wants it” (yesterday, item 14). Charles Richardson is right in his summary of the relationship between the Greens and Labor. It is obvious that Labor is hell bent on denying its own values and is being saved from doing so by the compassion and common sense of the Greens.

I therefore find it frightening that in every day discussion (on the ABC and elsewhere) there is always a Labor representative, a Liberal representative and yet no Green. Perhaps in the coming months it will gradually dawn on more and more people that Labor and Liberal are Tweedledum and Tweedledumber and the only real alternative is the Greens. Thank God they hold the balance of power in the federal Upper House for years to come.

The Bell decision:

Joshua Saunders writes: Re. “Power Shots: Nine changes story … Bell case lingo … Markson exposes …” (yesterday, item 15). Regarding the use of obscure words by Justice Owen in the Bell decision. I had the significant misfortune of summarising the decision for one of the legal journals, which required reading much of it. Most of the very obscure words appear only at the very start and the very end of the decision.

Owen J explained this practice thus:

“The monotony of reading, writing (and arithmetic) was ameliorated a little by sporadic resort to literary and other fanciful references and by an occasional (and admittedly mischievous) tendency to a sesquipedalian style …”

Most of the 3000-plus pages are actually very well written. Owen J came to the final hearing in Bell immediately after finishing off the HIH Royal Commission. His Honour’s mild self-indulgence was, in the circumstances, understandable!

Peter Fray

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