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Refugee and humanitarian programme cuts to confirm an act of moral bankruptcy



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PARLIAMENT CF AUSTRALIA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

PL. ;00) 2772176 Fax Ι.Ό 6) 2778575

The Hon Duncan Kerr MP Shadow Minister for Immigration Assistant to the Leader of the Opposition for Multicultural Affairs

3 July

REFUGEE AND HUMANITARIAN PROGRAMME CUTS C O N F I R M AN ACT OF MORAL BANKRUPTCY

Mr Ruddock’s announcement of the Government's 1996-97 Humanitarian Program confirms every morally bankrupt detail of a Cabinet submission leaked in mid May in which the Minister proposed breaching the Coalition’s pre-election pledge ‘not to reduce the

refugee component and to emphasise the role of assisting genuine refugees’.

It confirms that the Howard Government is all about cuts, broken promises and secret plans no matter what the consequences, no matter who the victims.

During the election campaign, Mr Howard claimed a virtual monopoly on integrity and honesty - but now the facade has been chipped away to reveal the real John Howard.

The refugee cuts break an election promise.

In his Cabinet submission. Minister Ruddock said “my proposal to reduce the size of the Humanitarian Program with the consequent reduction in the Refugee program will bring into question our election commitment ‘not to reduce the refugee component and to emphasise the role of assisting genuine refugees’.

Mr Ruddock has resorted to the presentational deceit he foreshadowed in his leaked submission, to disguise the savagery of the cuts he has made.

From a base line program of 13,000 with 4000 refugee places, Mr Ruddock will oversee a reduction to 10,000 places on an ongoing basis — a cut not just in 1996-97 but for every year into the future.

A copy of the Cabinet Submission is attached so that the massive cynicism and continuing deceit that this decision represents can be properly understood.

For further details contact: George Haddad 002 345 255

Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Benjamin Offices C han St Belconnen ACT 2617

CABINET IN CONFIDENCE

Cabinet Liaison Officers:

DFAT AUSAED DSS

DBFS DIR DIST DEST

ATSIC

DEETYA

AGS PM&C DOF Treasury

DPIE AES

CO ORDINATION COMMENTS ON DRAFT CABINET SUBMISSION; HUMANITARIAN PROGRAM SAVINGS SUBMISSION

Please find enclosed a copy o f the above draft Cabinet Submission, It would be appreciated if yon would provide your comments by cob ON WEDNESDAY 15 MAY 1996.

Tne contact officer for the above submission is Frank Johnston on telephone 264 2195. Comments may be faxed to 770 on the secure Ministerial fax network or delivered by hand Should you send the coordination comment by secure fax please contact me on 264 2729.

Luci Modric A!% Cabinet Liaison Officer 13 May 1996

CABINET IN CONFIDENCE

PO Sox 25 Belconnen ACT 2615 Telephone (06)2641111 Facsimile (06)264 2747

HUMANITARIAN PROGRAM s a v i n g s s u b m i s s i o n

To "obtain agreement to savings to trie Budget by reducing 'ilic οΊΓΐΗοΓέ' cdiii'^iheni oT the' Humanitarian program to i 0,000 places. ’

; Refuges and Humanitarian Program and Settlement Program

in line with the Government’> commitments to continue the Humanitarian Program and

;o reduce the Budget deficit through a reduction i:·. outlays

There is strong community support tor the Humanitarian Program. There will be vocal criticism from community groups that a reduction in the program signals a reduction in the Government’s commitment towards humanitarian resettlement and that some deserving resettlement app!kirns will henceforth be denied a program place.

I Yes/No ? - »

iImplementation from commencement of new Program year on 1 Jvlv 1996. Regulation crv.endmcnts will be required in respect of particular Special Assistance Categories

. D FAT, AusAtD, AG's, PM&C, DoF. Treasury. DEETYA, DSS. DKFSVD1R. D1ST. BEST. DPIE, ATSIC. ABS.

Yes/No ?

' Yes/No ?

yAn arihoun'demehf'oTthe'composfiibh’orTrie 1995-97’HunSSnt't2nariTrd”tim will be made it the beginning nf the Program year. %

! 1 9 9 6 - 9 7 1 9 9 7 9 2 ! 9 9 S - 9 9 1 9 9 9 - 0 0

i r

i C os ts ( S m > ( 2 7 5 2 ) ( 1 2 . 7 7 1 ) ( 4 5 . 4 5 1 ) ( 6 4 S Z 1 )

1 | R e v e n u e ( S n ) 0 0 0 0 _

■ N e t B u d g e t I m a a c i ( 5 n ) ( 2 7 5 3 ) ( I S 7 7 | ) ( 4 5 4 5 1 ) ( 5 4 S 2 1 )

N’.B. There easts are yr-.t to be discussed with relevant portfolios and nrc net yet desired with Finn nee.

BACKGROUND

The Humanitarian Program has two aims:

(a) to assist the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) with the

resettlement o f refugees; and

(b) to provide a mechanism for people in Australia to have relations overseas m '

situations o f discrimination and hardship join them in Australia.

7 The Program provides resettlement for persons who satisfy the criteria under one of

the three elements:

(a) . Refugee: for those who meet the United Nations definition of a refugee and have

been identified in conjunction with UNHCR as in need of resettlemenr

(b) Special H um anitarian Program : for those who have suffered discrimination

amounting to gross violation of human rights and who have strong support from

family or community groups in Australia; and

(c) Special Assistance Category: for those who«, while not meeting the refugee or

Special Humanitarian criteria, are nonetheless ;n situations of discrimination,

displacement or hardship, and who have close family ties with Australia.

3. The previous Government set the 1995-96 Humanitarian Program at 13,000 places.

Following an international appeal by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

(UNHCR) for additional resettlement places for the former Yugoslavia, the program was

increased to 15.0C0 in 1995-96 by bringing forward 2.00C places from 1996-97. The

bring-forward consisted of 665 Refugee, 667 Special Humanitarian and 668 Special

Assistance Category places. On i5 April 1996 the Expenditure Review Committee

(ERC JH 96/OOiO>agreed to the continuation of this post Budget measure but without any

bang forward of funding. Visas will be granted in 1995 96 for the 2,000 places brought

forward but arrivals will be managed to ensure that the expenditure is incurred in 1996-97.

Ο™/! V. iLvdi Nt— l

4. The. Government's election commitments in reiatior. 10 the Human, tarmn Program

were to:

(a) continue a separata Humanitarian Program;

(b) not to reduce the refugee component and to emphasise the role ot" assisting genuine

refugees; and

(c) review the efficiency and equity of the special assistance caiegoties. ·

ISSUE

5. I propose, as a savings measure, the Humanitarian Program be reduced to 10.000

places :n 1996-97 and subsequent years.

6. The reduction to 10.000 places would be achieved in 1996-97 by reducing the

Special Assistance Category by 1.000 places and in 1997 98 and subsequent years by

reducing the Special Assistance Category by 3.000 places. The reduction to the Special

Assistance Category will have the least impact on-the Government’s core humanitnrinn

objectives and is in line with the rationale behind the review of this element or the

Program. The proposed reduced Program would consist ot the following:

94-95 95-96 96-97 97-98

Refugee . 4,000 -4,665 3.335 4,000

Special Humanitarian Program 2,800 3.467 2.133 2.800

Special Assistar.ee category 6,200 6,568 4,532 3,200

t o t a l ■ 13.000 15.000 10,000 10,000

7. I am proposing (in rr.y Portfolio Budget Submission) to significantly reduce the

level o f funding available through the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme to Protection Vise

applicants in Ausvalia This measure, which will deny assistance under the scheme to

rejected applicants who seek review, will draw heavy criticism not only from ethnic

cnmnurvties our also welfare providers, the Church etc. My proposal to reduce the size of

the Humanitarian Program, with the consequent reduction in the Refugee component, will

bring into question our election commitment 'not to reduce the refugee component and to

emphasise the role o f assisting genuine refugees.'

S. There arc two options which would enable us to achieve the objectives o f reducing

the size of the Humanitarian Program whilst maintaining our commitment not to reduce the

Refugee component. These are:

(a) Option 1. Restore the Refugee component to 4,000 places in 1996-97. This would

achieve an overall savings of $1.2 million to the Budget in 1996-97 but this is reduced

from the 52.7 million in AmichxncaLA. [Precise figure to be con firmed]. The full level of

savings will be realised in subsequent years.

(b) Option 2; Retain 3,335 Refugee places in 1996-97 (as outlined in paragraph 6) and

rationalise, for public presentation, the allocations for [995-96 and 1996-97. That is, taken

over the two vear period, the Refugee allocation has remained constant thus meeting our

commitment.

9, I have carefully considered these options particularly in regard to my related

initiative to reduce the level of the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme, our election

commitments and rhe likely adverse public reactions to my savings initiatives. My

preference, for strong presentational reasons and to aver, the criticisms outlined above,

would he to propose Option 1. However, in view of the difficult budget situation we are

in. I am reluctantly proposing that Option 2 be adopted. In proposing this option I am * *

conscious that we will have difficulty sustaining the argument that we have kept our

commitment not to' reduce the Refugee component, notwithstanding the fact that, taken

over the two year period, it has remained constant.

*

Qnmmur.iry Rssxcrion

10. There is strong community support for particular Special Assistance Categories and

the Humanitarian Program in general. The Government nay expect vocal criticism from

community groups on the bases that the proposed program signals a reduction in rhe

Government’s commitment towards humanitarian resettlement and that s o m e deserv:

resettlement applicants will be denied a program placi­

ng

A r.cra.iT jriag for Prrueaionddsas..Gc3nted^ π .Austral m

1L. The previous Government decided that chose persons granted permanent residence as a

result of a successful application for refugee status m Australia would not be counted against

the Humanitarian (or the Migration) Program. In 1994-95 some 1.597 persons were granted

refugee status in Australia and for the first nine months of this year, some 1,4-78 applicants

have been successful.

12. Presen unionally, wc would gain benefits by adding to the Humanitarian Program the

estimated number of grants o f Protection Visas In 1996-97. That is. we coulc announce that

our com m itm ent to refugees and humanitarian resettlement has been set at 12.000 places in

1996-97. consisting o f 10.000 places offshore uno 2.000 places onshore. There -would be no

^ financial implications tor the Budget from this proposal. -

13 As part of this initiative. I would propose taut if the Protection Visa grants onshore

were to exceed 2.000 places in [996-?7. then resettlement of persons from offshore would be

reduced accordingly. Were there to be any unexpected increase in the numbers of persons

^ granted Protection Visas onshore this proposal would limit the implications for the Budget.

P· npnrifl! lm r^rt^ns

is. Air-arSn-a-M a details the savings arising from the proposal. Whilst the savings for

this P o r/o lio are r.gt significant (rising to S ’ .93 L million in year 3 and onwards) they are

much greater m other portfolios (such as Soda: Security, Employment. Education.

Training arc Youth Affairs, and Health and Family Services). The savings assume that the

nrnv-al of these entrants will be spread evenly throughout the year (Ir. line with visa issue).

They also assume that Special A s s is ta n c e Category e n tra n ts will continue to us<* settlement

services after their first year in Australia.

7

a t t a c h m e n t a

PORTFOLIO: Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

PROGRAM:

DETAILS OF COSTINGS:

P rice b a iis o f costings: / 996-97prictHS

1 9 9 S -9 *

$ m

1 9 9 6 -9 7

Stu

1 9 9 7 * 9 8 S in

199X -99 S m

1999-01) S m

A : C U R R E N T P R O G R A M E S T I M A T E S ( r o t e ^ r o g r t t n iM urtaicft to b e in Jtifh c p riv y b a s ts a* p rftp o sie h

O C fih a rc Program 7 9 .3 6 4

Delivery *

7 3 .6 3 6 7 1 .8 2 7 7 1 .2 1 2 7 1 .2 ( 2

C O S T I N G O F P R O P O S A L 1 9 9 6 -9 7

$ m

I9 9 7 -9 X

S m

IV W -9 9

S ki

( ‘W tM M S m

B : O U T L A Y S

Originating P o r tf o lio -

Running C o s ts T IS

(0 .2 6 7 ) (0.S O 2) (0 .5 0 2 ] i 0 8 o 2 )

P r o g ra m C o s ts

a m e p .

(0 .1 9 6 ] ( ! .1 7 9 ) ( [ .1 7 9 ] 1 1 .1 7 $ )

P o r tfo lio sub-tot»·. (0 .4 6 3 ) ( 1 . 0 8 : ) (1 .9 8 1 ) ; 1 .9 5 1 ]

Q tiw r P o rtfo lio *

DSS [ U 6 3 | [ U , 6 6 | I2 S .9 2 | (45.121

D E E T Y a [ 0 J 3 O ] [3.9411) (1 0 .2 7 ] 111 H I

H&FS [0 .3 1 ] [ 1 .7 9 ] [4 .2 S ] % 591

OTHER PORTFOLIOS S i i M o m I

[ L t S l 116.791 (63 .4 7 1 [6 2 .5 4 ]

TOTAL OUTLAYS 12.753) (1 8 .7 7 1 ) ( 4 5 .4 5 1 ) ( 6 4 .8 2 1 )

D : N E T C O S T T O B U D G E T

(2 .7 5 3 ) (1 X .7 7 1 ) ( 4 5 .4 5 1 ) (643121)

Costings agreed with Finance: [Yes or No] N.B. These costs are yet to be discussed with relevant portfolios and are not yet cleared with Finance.

1 l

&

RECOMMENDATION

15. I recommend that Cabinet agree:

(a) that the Humanitarian Program be set at 10.000 places for 1996-97 and ou: years;

(b) that this he achieved by reducing the Special Assistance Category by l,COO places in

1996-97 and 5,000 places in the out years,

(c) that in regard to the Refugee component the places allocated in 1996 -97 be set at

3.335 as outlined in Option 2 and reverting to 4.000 places in the out years;

(a) that, for public presentation, the number of persons granted a Protection Visa in

Australia be added to, and announced together with, the Humanitarian Program

17 May 1996 Philip Ruddock