Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Coalition to cut subsidised refugee advice -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

ELIZABETH JACKSON: The Federal Opposition is promising to stop funding immigration advice for asylum seekers if it wins next week's election.

At the moment Australian taxpayers fund refugee claims and legal appeals.

The Coalition says while it wouldn't stop people accessing the help, it would stop funding it.

But human rights advocates say it will mean that genuine refugees would struggle with the claims process, and some would be sent home fearing for their lives.

Tom Nightingale reports.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: The Coalition's changes would mean anyone who arrives by boat or plane and applies for asylum won't get subsidised help while doing so.

The Opposition's immigration spokesman is Scott Morrison.

SCOTT MORRISON: People can still make the claims, obviously, and if others in the community or others want to provide that advice free of charge or they want to pay for that advice, then obviously that can continue. We won't be stopping access to advice but the taxpayer will no longer be on the hook for it.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: You've said the program will cost $40 million this year and save quite a bit more over the coming years. But the program's fact sheet on the website says it costs $3.6 million in the past financial year. How do you reconcile those numbers?

SCOTT MORRISON: Our figures are sourced directly from the Department of Immigration.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: OK, so how does it get from $3.6 million in the past financial year to $40 million in your estimates?

SCOTT MORRISON: Because so many more people are arriving, and the figures that we're using have been provided directly by the Department of Immigration in the process of preparing this policy.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: The Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme is part of the Immigration Department, and the Coalition says it's one of the few schemes of its type in the world.

It lets people access migration agents or legal aid staff across the country, paid for by the department.

Julian Burnside QC is a high-profile refugee advocate. He says asylum seekers usually don't have the money to pay for professional advice, so the changes would mean they'd either rely on help from someone else or represent themselves.

JULIAN BURNSIDE: The problem is that roughly 50 per cent of people who are knocked back by department officers in their claim for asylum go to the Refugee Review Tribunal and get the assessment changed. In other words, department officers simply get it wrong.

For a person without representation to go to the RRT is likely to end up in an unfair result if they don't know what they're doing, can't speak the language, and don't have professional help.

The result of that will be that a number of people who are genuine refugees will be returned to face persecution because they haven't had a fair go in our assessment system.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: He says his work with refugees is pro bono, so there's no profit motive to his thoughts against the idea.

The ABC tried to contact the office of Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus for a response but none was received before deadline.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Tom Nightingale with that report.