Rise of the Planet of the Bridging Visa

Back in 2010 I wrote  a small tidbit about Refugee’s and the myth of outrageous benefits being applied to them over and above our other welfare recipients.

As someone who dearly believes we as a nation have a social contract to look after those that cannot look after themselves while that state exists I have no desire to turn my back on refugee’s or the systems to look after and manage them.

Recently on the 25th of November 2011, our Immigration Minister Chris Bowen with the direct support of Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a policy shift to onshore community detention by way of granting bridging visa’s to irregular maritime arrivals (IMA) known commonly as boat people or asylum seekers.

This shift is the next stage in the legislative impasse between the opposition and the government , with the greens thrown in for added flavour.  I really dislike the issue of welfare being turned into a political basket ball game seeing who can score from the three point line and then rebound with a slam dunk.

Immigration policy should never be about point scoring and it should never get to the point where policy is introduced just for political gain.  What distresses me more then anything with this shift is we are now seeing Asylum seekers elevated to a level of support over and above those of our most vulnerable pensioners and low income families.

We have the situation where opposition leader Tony Abbott will never agree to bipartisan support for any type of reform, his and the entire Liberal ethos at the moment is to oppose, oppose, oppose regardless if it is in the interests of Australia or not.  This forces the Government into the arms of awaiting Greens which make untenable and unreasonable demands to get their support which the Government has to bow to in order to get anything done.

We all know what happens when someone has you over a barrel, you invariably get shafted and folks that’s exactly whats happening to us… we are being shafted as we have a weak opposition unwilling to put our needs first.  The Greens control over the Government has given us the Carbon Tax, and now it’s given us Immigration policy that offers no deterrent to irregular arrivals weather it be by air or sea.

Abbott wants Naru back on the cards, Gillard wants Malaysia, Greens want onshore community detention and that’s exactly what we are getting and Gillard is only to happy to face the media time and time again and say to us we have had to take this measures as Abbott won’t work with us, so really it’s his fault we have these people in our community now as parallel off shore processing can’t work without his support.

There is a lot of fear mongering that boarders on racial vilification that I really don’t want to get into, other then to say it plays no part in my dislike of this policy and to be clear I don’t really even have an issue with community detention.

What I have a issue with is these people getting more support then Australian’s receive,  under preexisting arrangements and legislation irregular arrivals only received benefits once a protection visa was granted after they were assessed as being true refugee’s with need of assistance and the level of benefits were the same as any other Australian.

What we have now with these bridging visa’s are groups of people being moved into the community while their status is determined.  They are provided housing, material aid and income support via the Red Cross but fully funded but the Department of Immigration and granted on the basis of ministerial discretion.

In south east Queensland the cost of this housing which is fully paid for by us the tax payer is on average $383 a week, with phone and electricity connections being covered as well.  That in itself is more then any Australian can hope to get from the Government in terms of housing support.  What’s more these rental properties are not housing commission dwellings these are private rentals.  This eclipses the support of rent assistance or even the National Affordable Housing Scheme.

Further once a property has been identified, it has to be setup to make it habitable which is reasonable but again it’s more then any Australian in need is provided.  Centrelink doesn’t take our needy down to the Good Guys or Fantastic Furniture to fit our their housing commission dwelling.

The average home starter package as provided by the Red Cross paid for by us the taxpayers runs at about $10,000 and includes items such as LCD Digital Televisions (our pensioners had to make do with a set top box), washing machines, bed suites, and lounges.  It also includes a hamper with essential home items like cleaning goods and groceries valued at $750.

This is all based on a family or grouping of 5 people, more people equals more money.  On top of this recipients can petition the Department of Immigration to have items such as bikes, computers, internet access and even iPods considered and granted to them.

89% of the Centrelink special benefit is then provided to individuals as income support which is comparable with Newstart Allowance, but with all other costs already covered such as rent, phone and power this is far an away more then what our Australian needy are left with.

Pretty sure I’ve never heard of any welfare benefit paid by Centrelink to Australians including any of these things.   I believe this is a step too far, if we can’t and won’t do these things for Australian’s in need we shouldn’t be doing it for anyone else either.  Welfare should start at home and be equitable for all those receiving it no matter the political points to be scored.

My other real concern with onshore community based processing of claims is that many asylum seekers often arrive with untreated medical conditions, some quite serious in nature.  Only this week we have seen arrivals at Christmas Island with typhoid fever which can have fatality rates as high as 47%.  We need strong quarantine measures and ensure correct medial examinations occur well before anyone gets out of mandatory detention.  In our agriculture we talk about having strong bio security,  this needs to be no different.

I am greatly disappointed in the Opposition and the Greens for allowing this imbalance to occur.  Since when does being Australian make you a second class citizen to irregular arrivals?

Chris Bowen has already confirmed that the majority of irregular arrivals are now in community detention under these measures.  That’s 1,145 people with more then that already moved through the community and onto protection visa’s.  Since 2010 when Gillard took office at the last election we’ve had 117 boats arrive with 6,897 people on board.  Higher then under Rudd, and with no deterrent in place to stop them only more will arrive till this political point scoring ceases and a real bipartisan solution is found.

It annoys me when Gillard says things like “we are committed to strong protection of our borders“, this has nothing to do with border protection.  This is about doing the right thing, and creating a policy frame work that not only protects asylum seekers but protects every day Australian’s as well while providing adequate levels of support to people as they progress through their changing circumstances.

Today I believe we have gone beyond any reasonable measure of assistance and need to pull it back in line, even for a socialist like me this is hard to justify and I can’t.

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