A one-way Qantas flight from Darwin to Jakarta costs as little as $441. That’s worth bearing in mind as the federal government moves ahead with its woeful plan to release asylum seekers out of detention, expecting them to live on welfare payments of around $220 a week and denying them the right to work for up to FIVE YEARS.

Hoards of plane people swarm our borders… oh, wait.

State governments predict a “social catastrophe”; welfare groups say it will put enormous pressure on already over-stretched programs and resources; and Labor Left faction chief Doug Cameron warns of a new “underclass” if 8000 detainees are dumped into communities across Australia.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, however, maintains it’s all part of a “no advantage” regime that sends a strong message to prospective asylum seekers that they’ll be no better off if they jump genuine refugee queues and arrive by boat.

“No advantage” is right.

No advantage in terms of stopping the boats. If your life was in danger in your Middle Eastern homeland, or you faced the prospect of years (even decades) in some crowded, god-forsaken Asian detention hell-hole, wouldn’t the eventual prize of $220 weekly welfare payments in some sunny Australian city sound rather alluring – even without work rights?

No advantage for Australian taxpayers who will fork out millions (8000 people x $220 x 52 weeks x 5 years = $458m at the very least). Add to that the untold millions in mental health programs and counselling services that will be needed to support people languishing in a societal twilight zone.

No advantage to the local communities who’ll be forced to pick up the pieces. As NSW Minister for Community Services Pru Goward said this week: “Five years ... is an enormous amount of time for already traumatised people (who often lack) work skills and language skills. I think that would be disastrous for a lot of families and their surrounding communities.”

No advantage for the self-respect and dignity of the people who seek Australia’s assistance.

I’m not talking about so-called “economic migrants” who are arriving in increasing numbers from Sri Lanka – many are already being flown straight home. I mean those who are deemed genuine refugees but will still be subject to these cruel bridging visas.

And finally, no advantage to Australia as a cohesive, fair and welcoming society, with anti-refugee rhetoric already empowering xenophobes as we’ve seen this week when a tourist was vilified on a bus simply for singing in French.

On Friday, Opposition leader Tony Abbott announced a Coalition government would ensure asylum seekers on bridging visas worked for their welfare payments to break the “something for nothing mentality”.

That premise is at odds with welfare agency workers who say many asylum seekers are desperate to find work: to earn an honest living; to meet new people; to contribute to society; to learn English; to fit in.

But if neither major party is willing to afford refugees the dignity of paid work, I agree that Mr Abbott’s plan is the way to go. It would at least give refugees some purpose in their new lives.

The saddest aspect in all of this, and I suppose it’s the unfortunate consequence of a global humanitarian dilemma that really has no fair and humane solution, is that both Labor and the Coalition are heading ever further to the right on asylum seeker policy.

What hope do these poor people have of being genuinely welcomed into wider society when politicians label them “illegal arrivals” undertaking in a “peaceful invasion” of our “uncontrolled borders”.

It makes you wonder if a quick, cheap Qantas flight out of Darwin, bound for Indonesia, might be a fairer course of action. That’s one “no advantage” policy that would surely stop the boats.

Comments on this post will close at 8pm Eastern time.

Most commented


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    • youdy beaudy says:

      05:16am | 25/11/12

      I agree with Tony as regards letting the people work while in the community. If people are left to be idle then that would probably drive them mad as it would us. It’s good to be busy as it gives people a feeling of self worth and many of these people would have skills anyway and on the other hand they could join sporting organizations such as swimming and athletics etc and that would help them feel a part of the community. Also learning English although many speak already and educate their children at our schools and the adults could study themselves. There has to be positive things in place for them to assimilate properly.

      I think that Australians generally are accepting of people who need support and are quite willing to help. It is not general that ignorance is the order of the day.

      I have no problem with any of this. Of course it will be difficult for Sri Lankans or others to deal with the very increased cost of living that we have in Australia as compared with Sri Lanka or other countries where they are used to paying the right price for things not the over inflated price as we pay.

      The Government of any ilk has to realize that there are many charitable institutions in Australia and these Institutions through their good work have for years and decades now contributed and carried Governments as far as contributing clothing, goods etc to the people who need help and many of them are not receiving funding from the Governments. They get their support from the Community in the different places, towns, suburbs etc.

      I think human dignity should be maintained at all cost. Just because someone is from Sri Lanka doesn’t mean that they are lesser than anyone else. Anyway, i hope that Mr Bowen re looks at this no advantage thingy. If people are allowed to work and get financial support also then in doing so they can pay tax and put something back as everyone else does and that would be good.

      I think also that they could be placed with families who have similar religious and cultural viewpoints so they can feel at home in their new country and fit in with the rest of us and not have to worry about racism etc. That is not a good thing for us or them, the racism that is. Good luck with that people. You never know what is around the corner with life. Maybe one of their family might become a great sporting star or community leader and that would definately please everybody in a sporting mad country like Australia. You just never know about what may or may not be. The proof of the pudding being in the eating as the old saying goes. Let’s not look so much at the negative side. Yes, negative government there is always a positive side. Why don’t we look there for a change. God this country is negative. We would have to agree with that wouldn’t we at least. Let’s create a good side out of all of this, that would be good for a change because it’s all getting downright depressing for many of us i’m sure.

    • acotrel says:

      05:44am | 25/11/12

      ’ Labor Left faction chief Doug Cameron warns of a new “underclass” if 8000 detainees are dumped into communities across Australia.

      And that really matters ?  - we are all part of the new underclass already.  There is no point in being paranoid or phobic.  A positive and constructive approach is needed.  If the LNP and the ALP don’t want t o build a bigger and better Australia , there are other political parties. The Greens are beginning t o look like winners !

    • cheap white trash says:

      07:36am | 25/11/12

      LOL…..A positive and constructive approach is needed…
      The Greens are beginning to look like winners ! No mandatory detention
      End offshore processing, Climate refugee visas,YEP that will solve the PROBLEM…The Greens, they are the PROBLEM…

    • Gregg says:

      11:20am | 25/11/12

      That barn door has opened .000001 mm. for you hasn’t it?

    • Robinoz says:

      12:16pm | 25/11/12

      Before you promote the Greens, go to their site and read some of the un-Australian activities they promote in their policies. If the Greens ever gain government, the country will face a hasty demise.

    • ronny jonny says:

      05:46am | 25/11/12

      “when politicians label them “illegal arrivals” undertaking in a “peaceful invasion” of our “uncontrolled borders”
      This is exactly what they are and what is happening. They shouldn’t be released intot he community, I agree with that, they should be locked up until deported. That’s it. It may be cruel but surely the deterrent effect will in the end solve the crisis. As it is now we can persist with the ridiculous and cruel policies that aren’t working and keep having people drown off our coast or being allowed into the community to become a criminal underclass. Make no mistake, that will be the result of having these people sit around on the dole for 5 years. They have already shown their contempt for Australian law and due process and no doubt they are survivors. If they are to be released into the community please release them in Canberra.

    • A Concerned Citizen says:

      08:55am | 25/11/12

      “the wider community” should NEVER be put at risk and be the dumping ground of somebody else’s personal morals.

      If we can ‘t handle the influx and don’t want to be living next door, our only option is to raise the requirements for gaining asylum, making deportation an automatic option for failing these, and loosening the rules we entitle ourselves to use deportation as an option.

      Releasing them into the community is an outright policy failure, and the biggest losers are the poor sods who LIVE in that community.
      The discussion of whether they are denied working rights simply decides how much WORSE of a failure it is.

    • Mik says:

      07:12am | 25/11/12

      In 2012, that countries can get away with producing large numbers of refugees is a blight on that money guzzler, the UN. No genuine refugee wants to become a refugee. Perhaps Australia , with all its considerable influence now that it is on the security council, can get these dopes to act with unity when confrunting push factors. Ah, can hear more oinking as more pigs fly overhead.

    • Concerned Citizen says:

      09:14am | 25/11/12

      Australia actually use the UN seat to do something that actually benefits us???
      I thought we were too busy using it to toady up to the USA.

      We’re better off just ignoring the UN. There is no reason they couldn’t have reformed the convention themselves- nothing but pure stubbornness and arrogance keeps them from doing so.

    • marley says:

      09:46am | 25/11/12

      @Concerned Citizen - I don’t think you understand how international conventions work.  The UN can’t reform the Convention itself.  It is the member states who would have to do that, and agree to the amendments - and the UN knows full that that if it reopened the Convention, half the signatories would walk away from it entirely.

    • Richard says:

      07:27am | 25/11/12

      We should either accept these “illegal arrivals”  and support them fully or simply place on a return flight ASAP.  Charitable institutions can’t continue to carry the brunt of supporting everybody who needs help, especially homeless citizens who should come first. Is withdrawing from the UN refugee arrangements even an option worth considering or should we use our 2 year position on the UN Security council to raise this issue of country shopping.

    • A Concerned Citizen says:

      09:17am | 25/11/12

      We could always try to use the Security Council seat to lobby the UN to change its outdated convention; if they refuse, we should instantly rescind it.
      Even if it costs us the security council seat it would be worthwhile. IT would have been the ONLY productive purpose for holding that stupid seat anyway.

    • Gregg says:

      11:35am | 25/11/12

      First off Richard, the task to ascertain identities and validate stories being told by asylum seekers is just becoming a mountainous task for the immigration department only has so many staff who would normally have been more involved in processing regular visa applications, applications btw which can take years to be processed and for which hefty fees are paid.

      You will find that charitable institutions will quickly be out of funds and the pressure will again fall on governments and then there will always be where is the housing?
      8000 have arrived in just over three months and multiply that out for years and you start to get a magnitude of the problem that Kevin Rudd has let us in for in revoking what was working.
      And people love him!

    • Big Bob says:

      09:02am | 25/11/12

      Chris Bowen and the other side should work out something without thinking about the Opposition. Leave the bloody Opposition alone, they have a plan which we have been hearing for ages and if becomes the government will put into action. Deal with the damn problem as we see it today. Chris Bowen is the first person to forget that Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison exists. When he goes around saying that he wasn’t the one that said pick up the phone and call Nauru, then does it, it shows he and Labor simply cannot handle the mess they have got the nation into. Get out of the bloody kitchen and give the plan that is already there a go. I don’t mean elections either!

    • James Mathews says:

      09:10am | 25/11/12

      I think that you’ll find that they can’t get visa’s which is the reason they have to come on a boat, however my personal views are that we should end the long association with the UNHCR. I think that the Geneva way sucks and Australia’s Foreign and Migration policies shouldn’t be dictated to by another country as there is this thing call National Sovereignty which has always been pushed to one side in the Issue.

      Twitter: BigJamesMathews

    • Ex says:

      10:26am | 25/11/12

      Have you got a passport? - No
      Have you got a visa? - No

      Back on the plane immediately to where ever you came from.

    • marley says:

      11:14am | 25/11/12

      You do understand they’re coming by boat?  And Indonesia is under no obligation to take them back.

    • acotrel says:

      05:14pm | 25/11/12

      Somebody should tell Tony Abbott that !

    • marley says:

      06:24pm | 25/11/12

      @acotrel - both parties are a disgrace on this.  Malaysian Solution, Indonesian towbacks, it’s all crap.

    • Mike says:

      11:01am | 25/11/12

      When they stop burning down and trashing detention centres, then maybe they will start to realise that most Australians of all walks of life and educational levels don’t really like people who come here, ungratefully destroy what they were given and then expect more help.  Particularly when it’s OUR taxes that are paying for it.

      Go and search for Villawood, Perth, Darwin (last week) or Christmas Island “detention centre fire”.  It’s happened more than once.

      Not even bona-fide PRISONERS riot as much as they do, and I don’t see any bleeding heart, soy latte sipping greens crying crocodile tears over them !

    • wakeupcall says:

      11:07am | 25/11/12

      This asylum madness must end now. By changing policies that worked as a deterrent, the ALP/Greens have done enormous damage to the nation (the French bus incident is a sign of failing social cohesion) and have lured people to their deaths. The Liberals, with their support of multiculturalism and open borders immigration, are not much better, but at least they have a record of addressing the boat problem more effectively. Of course those who are rich, employed and live in safe leafy suburbs want to appear compassionate and think we have spare economic capacity. But they will not be the ones shouldering the burden, it is the poorest who pay the price of their seeming compassion. Refugee advocates actually make money from refugee policy as it polishes their public image, provides Government paid jobs or gives them stories to write about. Where will the refugee jobs come from? We have over 1.2million Australians already underutilised or underemployed according to the ABS. PM Gillard has admitted to this on the public record. Where is the right to dignity and work for non-refugees? Where is the compassion for them? Indigenous unemployment is very high.

      The refugee problem is simple. By providing permanent resettlement to refugees (that the Refugee Convention does not legally oblige), the distinction between immigration and asylum has been destroyed. This is a win for extremists. Extreme right wing ‘free market fundamentalists’ want a ‘big Australia’, open borders and mass immigration so as to drive down wages and drive up house prices and profits. They use Australia’s ‘aging problem’ as an excuse. They pocket the profits, and socialise losses (being the high costs of processing, welfare payments and services to refugees). They have now joined hands with extreme left wingers and internationalist utopians, motivated by post-colonial or rich person’s guilt, who think refugee programs should be used to end third world poverty and create a borderless world run by the U.N. (e.g. Bob Browns ‘Dear Earthians’ speech), under international law rather than democratic national Parliaments and domestic law.
      The Judiciary is captive to the internationalist mindset which sees nationalism, and national borders, as racism. It is keen to override the democratic will of Parliament, and has, by interpreting ‘well-founded fear of persecution’ to include a range of relatively minor human rights breaches such as gender and homosexual discrimination,  domestic violence, one child policies, and even civil disturbances (see UNHCR Handbook and International Commission of Jursists website). Since sharia law discriminates against women and homosexuals, and China has a one child policy, this potentially opens the door to the West for hundreds of millions, including their families.
      The price is paid by the poorest native born, in both sending and receiving countries, as young skilled migrants are lost to poor countries in favour of rich ones (‘reverse colonisation’), or the damaged, burdened and unskilled add to the burden of welfare and justice systems in rich countries. Global poverty is too big to be solved by Australia settling refugees. India alone adds around 22m, Australia’s population size, to its population each year. Each year! India alone!
      The best solution is to withdraw from the Refugee Convention and make our own local laws that find a balance between compassion and deterrence, end permanent resettlement of refugees, return the definition of ‘persecution’ to its original narrow intent, and return refugees and failed asylum seekers, when safe to do so, home, or to safe third countries.
      Boost aid to refugee camps in neighbouring counties, address global poverty through foreign aid not migration. Start with Indigenous Australians, the traditional owners of this nation.

    • Dark Horse says:

      12:32pm | 25/11/12

      Well said. Even our regular immigration program is immoral in that it takes doctors, engineers, teachers, nurses and other necessary people from third-world countries who can ill afford to lose them.

      I agree with helping people to stay in their countries by setting up systems of democracy that work, infrastructure and training people to grow food, and so on. The logical conclusion of the current immigration trends wold wide is that we will create a handful of countries who become overpopulated but have all the talent and a large number of banana republics where people fight for food and water.  Doesn’t sound like a good plan to me.

    • Gregg says:

      11:28am | 25/11/12

      ” State governments predict a “social catastrophe”; welfare groups say it will put enormous pressure on already over-stretched programs and resources; and Labor Left faction chief Doug Cameron warns of a new “underclass” if 8000 detainees are dumped into communities across Australia. “

      And you might want to multiply that 8000 in just over three months by ten fold or more and forever increasing.
      It is always going to be just how many does Australia and taxpayers have capacity to support, given our government budgetting is already of deficit proportions and as a country our debt level is just going up and up.

      That and the curtailment of people smuggling to prevent deaths at sea is why our government needs to do whatever it can, whatever it takes or Australia as a nation is just going to continue to get poorer in regard to what we can provide for our existing citizens.

    • Anjuli says:

      11:42am | 25/11/12

      What a great country this could be if every one worked who could and did their bit does not matter at what level, every dollar earned is an honest one. Keeping people idol is a recipe for disaster, then there will be those who have 10 children find it is beneficial to stay on the dole than to do menial work .
      The world has truly got itself into a mess.

    • Robinoz says:

      12:12pm | 25/11/12

      A stronger message would be that if you arrive from Indonesia by boat after having flown there, paid a boat smuggler, destroyed your papers etc, you will NEVER be granted a permanent Australian visa.

      If that doesn’t meet the terms of our agreement with the UN, we need to evacuate it and draft another. Or better still, withdraw it as we’ve made a significant effort in sharing our country and its resources since WWIi.

    • AdamJ says:

      12:53pm | 25/11/12

      I’m betting that Labors new plan leads to a crime explosion.  Idle hands and all.  You’d think that with all the pollies we have that they could come up with some kind of decent plan between them.


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