I think it sets a dangerous precedent when one starts leveraging asylum seekers above those who are already here with the assumption that they are lucky to be here. There are many destitute and poor inthis country and whether they happened to end up in Australia as the offspring of an immigrant or swam here it doesn't matter and the inference that those already here are the "haves" and those who are yet to arrive are the "have nots" is an unfortunate and inaccurate projection. While I have no doubt that some refugees have suffered, that doesn't mean that we forget that this country is not immune to suffering either. There are many, many, many Australians who live well below the poverty line and in deplorable conditions in this country who do not have wealth to share and for whom the system does not serve which is why I never bring these comparisons into theonshore processing argument as this, to me, is clearly a separate (anddomestic) issue.
In addition, there are many, many Australians whose first language is not English and survive very well. But there are many more who do not. This is a huge problem that will present direconsequences if not adequately addressed as part of any infrastructure plan for increased intakes and something I view as a social priority.
Inundation is not my main concern. Fatality at sea is. As the government’s implementation plan has yet to be released I can’t comment on what might or might not happen but will simply wait to read how it proposes to transport and process applicants. However, I think there needs to be a clear understanding of what constitutes a refugee and a determined immigrant. It is an established reality that many people choose Australia as their preferred destination over other countries that are easier to reach. It is also an established fact that Australia does not have a harsh immigration regime. Offshore/onshore linking is but one method of intake control. To say that Australia is the only country does not mean that such a method is cruel. A lot of other countries are much harder - some refuse any intake point blank or severely curtail their quota. Others, such as Canada, do not provide anywhere near the welfare assistance or visa types that this country does and is the reason why approvals for that country are not taken up. This country is widely viewed as being one with a softer touch and when you compare what occurs here and in a lot of other countries it is easy to see why. To this end I certainly do give a stuff about where people claiming asylum have come from and how their decisions have been made. Given that the highest number of people claiming asylum this year were Iranian economic migrants is further reminder that we do need to be diligent about how we apply our compassion. It is for this reason I would liketo see an expansion of our Refugee and Humanitarian Visa program (visa subclasses 200, 201, 202, 203 and 204). While I would concur that there is indeed a queue, I think it is wrong for us to speculate on what constitutes a fair place in that queue. There are many people still in detention for years waiting to be processed by Australia (be they in country or on any of our offshore designated centres) and to complain about who we perceive to be queue jumpers is in my view a disgraceful attitude. Just be grateful that you are here.
While inundation is not a main concern for me it remains a concern nonetheless and it is a reality and a responsibility we must address. As we have seen in the past years since the Howard policies were dismantled, the boat numbers have grown and a regular migration wave has now been established. I am very mindful of the difficulties other countries are facing, such as England, Lebanon and France for example, who have taken large numbers of refugees in but have not had the infrastructure to support them and have had chronic social and financial challenges as a result. This is a frightening outcome I don’t want to see repeated in Australia. At present, there is because the intake is so small and while I support a higher intake I do so onthe basis that this is matched with an increase in creation of additional infrastructure (which means additional and extensive funding). Should the government taxcorporations more heavily than it does? Absolutely. Should there be a tariff applied to foreign land sales? Absolutely. Should there be a new taxation regimen enforced on traditionally exempt organisations such as churches and charities? Absolutely. But will this government do that? No. Rudd has stated that the new policy will be “budget neutral” which begs the question, where he is going to pull the money from? Foreign aid? Defence? Education?
At present, there are roughly 40,000 people arriving by boat per year. Increase that by 100 and you have four million. Add this number to the present immigration number of around 300,000 and you have 4.3 million people a year. Housing is already at crisis point and numbers of homeless are increasing every quarter not tomention the increasing burden on hospitals and schools. Do we have the infrastructure to support such a large influx? Not by a long shot. Consider then the thousands of low skilled, predominantly Muslim migrants with limited or no English coming with no funding to provide them with adequate services and you have a devastating crisis happening in Australia. Previous generations did not face anywhere near the challenges that are present today. So while I accept that we have a legal andmoral responsibility to allow those who seek asylum in Australia to make their claim onshore, I am also mindful that we also have the same obligations to those already living here, be they citizens or residents. That said, I hasten to add that I am leery of this new policy even though details of which have yet to be released. On the face of it, I feel that redirecting asylum seekers to another country is immoral and unjust and it is not a solution that I, as an Australian citizen, am comfortable with putting my name to. I don’t see it lasting. But then again, I don’t see anyone elseproffering any other solutions either.