No contest: The Govt is onto a winner with this policy
In recent years there have been so many bad policy ideas come out of Canberra it is hard to decide which was the worst. Some will vote for the knee-jerk ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia, some the pink batts fiasco, some the dismantling of Howard’s Pacific Solution.
Personally I think the worst policies, like the best wines, take years to mature. Which is why Peter Costello’s decision to pay the dregs of society to breed always gets my Number One on the ballot paper of dumb things our politicians have done.
But this week after five years in office Labor finally got its act together with a policy to rival the baby bonus for its stupidity. Congratulations are due to Chris Bowen for his “no advantage” test which will apply to asylum seekers who are released into the community.
And just as Cozzie’s kiddies will be consuming welfare and filling our prisons for decades, the consequences of Bowen’s stupidity will be felt for years.
In case you missed it, Bowen announced this week that asylum seekers who have arrived here since August and been released into the community while their claims to be genuine refugees are examined will be banned from working and forced to live on the lowest Centrelink payment plus some rent assistance which works out at roughly $270 a week.
And even if they are found to be genuine refugees they will have stay in this limbo for as long as it would have taken them to be processed as refugees in our region which most people put at about five years. Oh, yeah I forgot, during this period the government can, if it wants, intern them and remove them from Australia to Nauru or Manus Island.
Let’s deal with the wickedness and cruelty of Bowen’s policy first - I’ll come to its stupidity later. But before I do let us pause for a moment and admire the compassionate modern Labor politician at work. Clearly, a group of people who can revel in attacking the opposition leader as a misogynist in the same week they vote to kick thousands of single mothers onto the dole, will stoop to anything, but even I thought some of them might baulk at keeping people in welfare-dependent poverty for years on end while they live in fear of being returned to a detention camp on a rock on a Pacific Island. Not least because they’re always lecturing us about the evils of welfare dependency.
Actually does one even have to explain why it is wicked to force people to live poverty is while they live in fear of sudden imprisonment? Does that really have to be spelled out?
As for the stupidity, where does one begin? Let’s start with the fact that one presumes none of the asylum seekers are actually going to comply with the rules. Instead they will disappear into the cash economy, which is good news for me as I’m looking for a gardener right now and having a few refugees about will be a good way of getting the locals to sharpen their pencils. But it isn’t going to do much for the tax base, nor I imagine for harmonious social relations with those whose jobs they are taking.
Then there are the idiots we will have to pay to go around and catch them working on the sly. You can bet they’re going to have a union. And if they do catch them , what they are we going to do to them? Cut off their dole payments like we do when we catch the natives cheating Centrelink? What will they live on then as they’re not allowed to work? Will we lock them up? Sorry, detention centres are already full. Suggestions to the minister please.
But let us for a second imagine that some of these refugees are so strangely law-abiding that they agree to sit in their welfare accommodation for five years doing nothing. How employable do you think they are going to be at the end of that period? They will by then have acquired a taste for that lifestyle, in which case the chances are we will end up supporting them for decades. Never mind the cases who will have gone nuts from the stress of the threat of being sent to the Pacific.
Finally there is the fact that as ghastly $270 a week for doing nothing might sound to you and me, who is to say it won’t act as a draw to people from countries where it’s more than the average annual wage?
This government has of course been forced into this debacle because of the failure of off-shore processing to deter the asylum seekers, almost 8,000 of whom have arrived since it was reinstated in August. If that deterrent doesn’t start working soon, Australia is going to have to start having a different conversation about refugees.
But that will keep for another day - in the meantime let us congratulate Chris Bowen for giving Labor a contender for the title of worst public policy decision of the last 20 years.
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