The Woeful Economics of Australia’s Asylum Policy

This is a guest post by the brilliant Georgia-Rae Cobon, who volunteers and works extensively in the aid of refugees and asylum seekers, particularly with the Refugee Council of Australia.

For the five or so years that I have been a registered voter in the Australian elections, one of the war cries I repeatedly hear from the coalition during election time is their readiness to take charge of Australia’s economy. [See Malcolm Turnbull just this week! – Ed.] When it comes to social policy they may not have clear minds, but fear not, the economy is in good hands… or so we are lead to believe.

It’s not difficult to see where the Coalition’s values nest, right there in their pockets, purses and wallets.

Any campaign of theirs will quickly reveal this in one brief glance, as each policy is laid out in economic terms with info graphics, tables and plenty of dollar signs to match.

Yet, reading about the economic cost of Australia’s asylum policies earlier this week, it struck me that what the Coalition’s refugee policies truly reflect is woeful economic management. We’ve already assumed that they don’t value humans, let alone their rights, but I was astounded to see how poorly they treated what lay dearest to their hearts… money.

The Australian government locks people in offshore immigration detention centres to the tune of $400k a head per year. There are over 1500 people who remain in these offshore processing centres, which evidently no one is being processed in, and for such an excessive fee.

Recently, Bronwyn Bishop’s exorbitant holidaymaking at the taxpayers’ expense has proven that the Australian people will not allow the government’s mismanagement of dollars to slink away unnoticed, yet there seems to be a shocking silence surrounding the huge sum of money used to lock children behind bars and destroy livelihoods.

Whilst the treasurer is busily shoving the numbers of ‘jobs created’ down our throats every other morning, perhaps he should be busily shoving ‘a guide to practicing what you preach’ down his own throat.

Meanwhile, if you want to talk jobs, just look at the astounding ability for refugees to renew small, struggling economies like the town of Nhill in regional Victoria once was.

Enterprising refugees who have settled in the area have generated a modest $40 million in around five years’ time.

Perhaps Hockey should employ some Karen advisers next time he wants to do a show and dance about job creation.

By Georgia-Rae Cobon

Editor’s note: With the recent leadership change there is some hopeful debate about policies changing. Mentions of the ‘treasurer’ in the above piece might have meant something else at time of writing. However the mention of ‘government’ does not change with a change of leader. The policies are the same, the party is the same, and the values are the same. And Georgia-Rae is absolutely right when she says that the grand sums spent on locking asylum seekers away could be better spent importing them and watching them flourish in communities around Australia (like Nhill!) 

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