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Monday, 2 April 2001
Page: 26223

Dr Theophanous asked the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, upon notice, on 8 February 2001:

(1) Has he made statements rejecting an alternative approach to detention, known as the Swedish Model, before a full evaluation could be made of this model; if so, why.

(2) Are his decisions based on the assumed high cost of the Swedish Model; if so, what was the (a) advice he received as to the likely cost of importing the Swedish Model to Australia and (b) basis of this assessment.

(3) Will he table in Parliament all documents in his possession relating to the costs of the operation of the model in Sweden.

Mr Ruddock (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Reconciliation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) On 27 February 2001, I announced in the House that I intend to conduct a small-scale trial, based on voluntary participation, of alternate detention arrangements for women and children asylum-seekers. While the features of the trial do not match exactly those of the so-called Swedish model of detention, the features of the Swedish model were considered when the new arrangements were being developed. The full Swedish model is not directly applicable to Australia.

(2)(a) and (b) The only document containing a figure and which my Department has in regard to the cost of detaining asylum seekers in Sweden is in a paper handed to me during my visit there in January and prepared by the Australian Embassy in Sweden. The entire reference to costs in that paper is: “3187 persons were taken into custody in 2000, among whom were 238 children. It is estimated the total cost per detainee in Sweden last year was $122,000.”

(3) Apart from that reference, I was advised by local officials when I visited Sweden on 17 January 2001, that the cost to the Swedish Government per annum of maintaining their current asylum system is in the order of US$1 billion.