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Green's compassionate refugee plan will save billions

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The Australian Greens have released costing details of their election policy on asylum seekers which will save taxpayers $3.2 billion over the next four years.

New costings from the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) have revealed that allowing asylum seekers to live in the community and earn a living will result in significant savings of almost a billion dollars. Further savings will come from ending expensive offshore and remote detention.

Today’s announcement comes as Julian Burnside AO QC flies to Adelaide to endorse Immigration spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and the Greens’ refugee policy.

“I am delighted that Julian Burnside, one of Australia’s most respected human rights and refugee advocates, is supporting Senator Hanson-Young and the Greens’ compassionate plan for refugees,” Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne said.

“Refugees have long been our nation’s chief political football, but this election we’ve hit new lows.

“In the race to cruelty, the old parties are wasting billions of dollars. Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott are burning cash on harsh punishment for innocent and desperate people that could be spent on helping single parents out of poverty or supporting students at universities.

“Cruelty in the pursuit of power shames us all. It drags down our international standing. It demeans us as a people but I know Australians are better than this.

“That’s why the Greens are saying enough is enough and standing up for a better way. Our plan will put people before politics. We will care for refugees and save money in the process.

“I haven’t seen such an outpouring of shock, disgust and anger towards the atrocious, cruel and expensive policies of Labor and the Coalition since the Tampa crisis.”

The Greens’ immigration spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said that economic savings were just one of the many advantages of the party’s refugee policy.

“Australia’s international reputation is being tarnished by the old parties and their obsession with cruelty,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“While the Labor Party wants to lock children up on Nauru and Tony Abbott wants to set fire to boats in Indonesia, the Greens are offering a considered, evidence based approach.

“Increasing funding to the UN in Indonesia, so that they can actually process people’s claims, and increasing our humanitarian intake would offer people a safer way to reach safety while caring for refugees.

“Australia’s generous heart is under attack from the old parties. If people want to see the Australia return to a humane and reasonable refugee policy they have only one choice; vote Green.” Senator Hanson-Young concluded.

The Greens policy would:

• Set 30 day time limit in onshore detention for health, security and ID checks, before allowing refugees to live in the community on a bridging visas with work rights

• Close down offshore detention in Nauru and Papua New Guinea (PNG) • Close down remote and expensive centres on mainland • Increase Australia’s humanitarian intake to 30,000 people per year

The plan would takes effect 1st January 2014.

Media contacts: Senator Milne - Peter Stahel 0437 587 562 Senator Hanson-Young - Noah Schultz-Byard 0427 604 760

Policy document attached.

Printed and authorised by Senator Christine Milne, Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600. Page 1 of 2

Australia’s notorious practice of indefinite mandatory detention is causing serious damage to vulnerable people who have already suffered trauma and persecution. By deporting refugees to inadequate facilities in Manus Island and Nauru, or stranding families in detention and in poverty here in Australia, we are failing the Australian spirit of fairness and compassion.

While the old parties compete to punish people in harsh detention camps, Australian taxpayers are footing a multi-billion dollar bill. Only the Greens are standing up for better, cheaper and more humane policies to save lives and care for refugees.

> CLOSE DOWN CRUEL DETENTION TO SAVE MONEY AND PROTECT HEALTH Deterrents, including expensive and cruel detention centres in Australia or overseas, have never been effective to stop refugees arriving by boat. In fact, mandatory detention has never actually worked as a ‘deterrent’ since it was first established by the Labor Party in 1992.


The current detention regime supported by both the old parties is founded on the plundering of foreign aid, the punitive incarceration of people who have committed no crime, and the re-traumatising of an already damaged generation of people.

It is also massively expensive, with the combined costs of Gillard’s ‘no advantage’ visa freeze and Rudd’s offshore deportation plan already rising above $8 billion across the forward estimates.


The Parliamentary Budget Office has indicated that the average cost of allowing someone to live in the general community is $35 000; compared to $225 000 to detain a person on Manus Island or Nauru.

The costs of detention are not just financial; Australia’s international reputation, foreign aid goals, legal integrity and,

most importantly, the lives of many vulnerable people are also at stake.

The Greens’ plan treats refugees with humanity saves Australia $3.2 billion over the forward estimates. Our plan will:

 Close down offshore detention on Manus Island and Nauru.

 Close down the worst Australian detention centres on the mainland and on Christmas Island.

 Establish 30 day time limits on detention in Australia so initial health, security and ID checks can be done, and periodic judicial review of any detention thereafter.

 Refugees to live in the community as soon as possible.

 Give full work rights to refugees and asylum seekers on bridging visas so they can support themselves where possible.

 Fair rate of assistance for those in the community who are unable to work.

Under the Greens’ fully costed plan, Australia would be treating refugees with compassion and fairness while saving taxpayers $3.2 billion.

The costing by the Parliamentary Budget Office provides a breakdown of savings as follows:

 $827 million saved by closing down offshore detention camps in PNG.

 $970 million saved from closing down offshore detention camps in Nauru.

 $925 million saved by having people live in the community rather than be locked up in detention.

 $81 million saved by not building the two new detention centres announced by the Rudd government. iii

 $366 million saved by closing down remote onshore detention centres including Curtain, Scherger, Wickham Point, Northern and North West Point on Christmas Island.

CARING FOR REFUGEES IN OUR COMMUNITY HUMANE, PRACTICAL, SAVING LIVES Ending the cruel detention of refugees in Australia, PNG and Nauru

Detaining refugees and their children in cruel offshore camps or in harsh centres in Australia is expensive and deeply harmful. Long-term detention causes mental ill-health and wastes the lives of people who are fleeing persecution. There is a better way.

Printed and authorised by Senator Christine Milne, Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600. Page 2 of 2

> CRUEL MANDATORY INDEFINTE DETENTION MUST END To our shame, Australia is the only OECD country that imposes indefinite mandatory detention on refugees.

iv We know full well

how harmful detention is to refugees and especially children. Mental ill-health, self-harm and suicide attempts are sad and constant features of long-term detention, whether it is in Australia, PNG or Nauru.

Amnesty International has noted that a 30 day time-limit on detention is broadly comparable with other countries. v Many

other legal experts and organisations have long made it clear that indefinite detention is not legally justified. vi

The Greens have been resolutely standing up in Parliament and around Australia for reasonable and safe time-limits on detention, including moving amendments to the Government’s offshore processing legislation in 2012 which were voted down by both the old parties.

> CLOSE THE WORST AND REMOTE AUSTRALIAN DETENTION CENTRES Detention centres in remote places around Australia are seen by many to be ‘factories for mental illness’. These centres are very expensive to run and extremely isolated. The remote centres are notoriously unattractive to trained staff, impractical for supplying goods, and removed from the reach of compassionate Australians, whose regular visits currently help refugees in metropolitan detention centres keep hopeful and healthy.

It is also hard for refugees in remote centres to access legal advice, excursions and medical care. The Green’s plan closes the most expensive and damaging of the remote centres, and leaves open or on standby enough metropolitan centres to deal with the current backlog and cater for the requirements of non-humanitarian short-term immigration detention.

> CHILDREN SHOULD NEVER BE IN DETENTION Imprisoning children in detention is a violation of their rights. As a starting point, children should never be in detention in Australia or any country, except for the absolute minimum period to complete basic health checks, and even then, it should be accommodation which is child-appropriate and not in mandatory detention centres.

For years, successive Labor and Coalition governments have been locking children up in detention where they are witnessing serious trauma, self-harm and despair, and often experiencing these things themselves. It is impossible to equip detention centres in Australia, and especially detention camps in Manus Island and Nauru, with appropriate education and paediatric

care that children require. Even the Labor Government had to bring back all the children it cast off to Manus Island in late 2012 within a year, because conditions were so appalling and damaging to children despite the billions that were poured into that camp.

The Greens are the only party standing up for the rights of the child and proposing an approach in which no child grows up behind bars or fences.

> WORK RIGHTS FOR PEOPLE ON BRIDGING VISAS Right now there are thousands of families living in destitution in the Australian community because the ‘no advantage’ allowance is so meagre and they are banned from working for a living and contributing to the Australian economy.

The Greens’ policy to allow people to work would lead to healthier lifestyles as people wait for their claims to be assessed, and take the pressure off thinly-stretched charities and non-government organisations. It would also save the public purse. Most of the refugees who come to Australia by boat come from skilled trades and professions. They are keen to make a contribution to Australia.

Without the right to work, refugees living in the community face very harsh conditions and poor mental health. In utter desperation they could be exposed to exploitation and harm on the illegal job market.

People waiting for their claims to be assessed in the community who are unable to work should receive fair assistance. Keeping people in destitution on 89% of Newstart is punishing people for having sought Australia’s protection from persecution.

i “Immigration detention in Australia”, Parliamentary Library, Parliament of Australia, updated 2013, mentary_Library/pubs/BN/2012-2013/Detention ii

See See Economic Statement, August 2013, and Immigration Department `Portfolio Budget Statement, 2013. iii

See Economic Statement, August 2013, Government announced intention to build detention centres at Blaydin Point and Singleton. iv

“Immigration detention in Australia”, Parliamentary Library, Parliament of Australia, updated March 2013 mentary_Library/pubs/BN/2012-2013/Detention v

Dr Graeme Thom, Amnesty International, evidence to the Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Immigration Detention Network, Hansard 26 September 2012, p 9. vi

Submissions to Joint Select Committee on Immigration Detention from; UNHCR, Law Council of Australia, Gilbert and Tobin Centre for Public Law, Castan Centre for Human Rights, Migration Institute of Australia.