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Coonan comments July 2001



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Coonan Comments

Date: 1 July 2001

SEEKING ASYLUM - ILLEGALS AND THE GOVERNMENT

Whether their arrival in Australia is authorised and they simply overstay their visa, or whether they arrive illegally in a leaky boat, the numbers of people claiming refugee status are putting huge pressures on our resources .

Visa over stayers are relatively easy to deal with because they have arrived lawfully and have met requirements for health, security and character for the issue of a visa. Last year about 16,000 people who had breached visa conditions were located. Many left voluntarily and others were then detained until they could be removed.

Illegal arrivals are a different story. They are mainly unidentified on arrival and claim refugee status. Whether or not they have a legitimate claim to be granted a Protection Visa is simply not known until proper enquiries can be made.

The three main reasons given for seeking asylum are: environmental conditions such as droughts or floods, economic reasons and fleeing persecution. The latter as the primary goal will usually result in a Protection Visa being granted, whilst the other reasons , after due process, usually ends in removal.

In response to the unlawful manner of their arrival, the Labor Party introduced detention of illegal arrivals until their status could be determined.

Many community groups have now called for an end to detention so that asylum seekers will be released, pending these assessments being made acceptable.

The problem is, that no-one has been able to suggest an acceptable alternative to detention that guarantees asylum seekers will, if released continue to be available to undergo health, security and character checks and be available for removal if their claim to refugee status fails .All of these criteria are important to Australia’s National Security and the integrity of our migration system. Even critics of detention centres concede these checks should be carried out.

No-one likes to hold stressed and exhausted people in detention, especially families. However, it is incumbent upon those who would abolish detention to come up with an alternative that will promote the same safeguards and one that will not send a message to the estimated 23 million refugees seeking resettlement, that Australia is a “soft touch” and an “open book”. We are still waiting!

Fast Facts:

• In 1999-2000, 4175 illegal immigrants entered Australia, about 3,800 this year—1,100 have been denied entry.

• Over the past two years, about 5300 have been granted refugee status and 1600 are being processed.

Highest % of illegal immigrants are from Iraq and Afghanistan, 70% are adult males, 20% women and 10% children.

ALP CONTINUES TO RESIST ELECTORAL REFORM

Not surprisingly, the Labor Party are railing against the latest recommendations for electoral reform contained in the Electoral Matters Committee report User Friendly, Not Abuser Friendly.

In the aftermath of extensive rorting by the Labor Party during preselections in Queensland, (exposed during the Shepherdson Inquiry), the news that 445 cases of electoral fraud were referred to the Federal Police has shaken public confidence in the electoral system. The Committee’s recommendation that ID be shown at the time of enrolment is so blindingly obvious it should go without saying.

Labor’s claims this would disenfranchise the disadvantaged is patronising and lacks credibility. ID is required for everything from renting a video to receiving welfare payments! Surely the electoral roll deserves, at least, these minimum safeguards! Labor, alone among the major parties, does not have a principle of one-vote one value for internal party ballots. Their 60:40 ratio of union:ALP branch delegates gives affiliated unions unprecedented power in the party. No wonder Labor won’t commit to one vote-one value!

Labor’s refusal to support reasonable and timely electoral reform is proof positive that the ALP is captive to the union movement.

Against the backdrop of ALP/union tensions in NSW, it is a case of Labor won’t support electoral reform because they can’t afford to take on union domination of their pre-selections.

Delivering on Aged Care

Despite unjustified Labor Party attacks on Aged Care Minister Bronwyn Bishop and calls for her resignation over the supposed poor state of nursing homes in Australia, and the media’s continued pressure on the Government, the Coalition continues to deliver for older Australians.

Not only did the Government announce a range of benefits in the 2001 Budget, but we are continuing to support Coalition introduced programs including the $280 million Staying at Home package, the National Strategy for Ageing Australia and the Aged and Community Care Information Line.

Residential aged care expenditure under the Government has increased from Labor’s $2.5 billion in 1995-1996 to $4.2 billion in the Year 2001-2002— an increase of $1.7 billion. When the new places are released for 2001, the Government will have allocated almost 32,000 new aged care places over three years .

On top of this, an Auditor General’s Report showed that Labor left a shortfall of 10,000 places— another mess the Coalition Government has managed to fix.

Our senior Australians are benefiting more than they ever did under Labor, and the Coalition has only just begun.

Focus on….. Lowe

As Patron Senator for the Electorate of Lowe, previously the responsibility of Senator Bill Heffernan, I was delighted to find candidate David Doust and his team powering into Election 2001.

Organised, energetic and focused, David, Peter Freame (Campaign Manager) and Alan Wright (FEC President) have already held a ‘Meet the Candidate’ cocktail function and more recently a barbecue, to raise funds for the 2001 Campaign.

I attended the ‘Meet the Candidate’ function, which was a great opportunity to get to know the team and their many supporters. I was also heartened by Lowe’s commitment to having a structured campaign in place well before the Election, which my staff and I have been helping them focus on.

And it doesn’t stop there—more fundraising functions are in the pipeline, including the Lowe Annual Dinner and the Concord West Branch Annual Dinner with special guest Tony Abbott.

We need to maintain pressure from now, right until the last post, and my job will be to support them all the way. The team at Lowe certainly deserve a pat on the back for their commitment so far—keep it up David and co!