It is costing Australia >$4 BILLION
each year to deprive the most vulnerable people of their human rights.
However, let’s put these costs into perspective.
~$4B AUD per year is roughly 0.3% of Australia’s GDP.
Compare that to Canada, who is currently spending 1.5% of its GDP annually on Border control (border with the US), that might bring some perspective to the expense.
The issue isn’t necessarily about MONEY, its more to do with HOW that money is spent, and HOW we are treating vulnerable human beings.
Offshore Detention isn’t necessarily the problem, but the experience of those who are processed offshore IS.
Denying sick people medical attention under our care IS THE ISSUE.
Taking more than two years to process people IS THE ISSUE.
Denying basic human rights to people under our care IS THE ISSUE.
Figures provided to the treasury Senate estimates committee, first reported by the Australian Financial Review, reveal that in 2016-17 the government spent a total of $4.06bn on border protection.[source]
According to the United Nations human rights commissioner, there were 801 refugees and asylum seekers held on Papua New Guinea – between the three sites on Manus Island and Port Moresby; 616 have been formally recognised as refugees at the beginning of last year.
Australia’s policy of “offshore detention” in an effort to reduce the number of illegal immigrants travelling to the country was first introduced by Labor prime minister Paul Keating in 1992 to manage “unlawful arrivals”. [source]
His immigration minister, Gerry Hand said at the time, “the government is determined that a clear signal be sent that migration to Australia may not be achieved by simply arriving in this country and expecting to be allowed into the community”.
The average Australian only really started to pay attention to this policy in the lead up to the 2001 election, when the Howard government blocked the Norwegian freighter MV Tampa from entering Australia after it had rescued 433 asylum seekers at sea.
What followed were weeks of limbo and frenzied media attention, which led to the asylum seekers being loaded onto an Australian naval vessel and transported to Nauru for detention and processing.
In response, Howard introduced the Pacific Solution policy, which meant any asylum seeker who arrived by boat had to be detained and processed via the offshore centres on Nauru and Manus Island.
In a leadership defining moment, Mr Howard said during an election speech: “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”.
Then just weeks before the election, Mr Howard claimed asylum seekers aboard a boat bound for Australia had thrown their children overboard, in a presumed act to secure rescue and enter Australia. That claim was later found to be untrue, but Mr Howard maintains he was not told there was no evidence to support the claim.
Professor Crock said Mr Howard looked like losing the 2001 election but had “a perfect storm” of events he was able to capitalise on; boat arrivals and the 9/11 attacks in the US, and Howards stern approach proved popular with Australians at the time.
When Howard lost the election to Kevin Rudd, the number of boats arriving from Indonesia had dramatically dropped and offshore processing facilities had emptied.
Upon becoming Prime Minister, Mr Rudd decided to dismantle the Pacific Solution, instead pledging a “firm but fair” border security policy.
Then-immigration minister Chris Evans said it was time for a more compassionate approach.
“Labor rejects the notion that dehumanising and punishing unauthorised arrivals with long-term detention is an effective or civilised response,” he said.
However, in the months and years that this change in border security policy, boat arrivals increased.
According to parliamentary records, the 25 asylum seekers that had travelled by boat in 2007–08, rose to over than 5,000 people during 2009–10.
Then came part one of the Julia Gillard / Mr Rudd shuffle, which promoted Ms Gillard to settle on a “refugee swap” deal in which Malaysia would take 800 asylum seekers who arrived in Australia via boat in exchange for 4,000 refugees taken from Malaysia’s own camps. But it was struck down by the high court.
With thousands more asylum seekers arriving and under intense political pressure, Ms Gillard was forced to announce the government would resume offshore processing in 2012.
“You don’t quite know what it’s like as prime minister to get the telephone call … from your defence forces that tell you that they suspect an asylum seeker boat has gone down,” she said.
The Gillard / Mr Rudd shuffle part two in 2013 led to the announcement that all (rather than some) people who arrived by boat would never be resettled in Australia.
In total over the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years, more than 50,000 people arrived and at least 1,200 people drowned at sea, according to the current government.
Coalition takes control: 2013-2019
The election of Tony Abbott to prime minister signalled an even harder line approach on boat arrivals as part of a strategy known as Operation Sovereign Borders, implemented by his immigration minister Scott Morrison and continued by successor Peter Dutton.
Key points of the Coalition’s “zero tolerance” policies included the use of boat turnbacks, offshore detention and processing, a no boat arrival resettlement in Australia policy, and tight control of information around arrivals by the government.