Morrison’s ‘Vindictive’ Cut to Refugee Advocacy - RCOA
Friday, 30th May 2014 at 3:47 pm
The Federal Coalition Government has backflipped on a recent Budget allocation for refugee advocacy – cutting its funding from the Not for Profit peak body, the Refugee Council of Australia.
The Government had allocated $140,000 for the RCOA as part of the 2014-2015 Federal Budget.
However, RCOA said it was surprised the funding that was allocated in the Budget and allowed for in the Government’s forward estimates to 2018 was removed without explanation.
RCOA Chief Executive Officer Paul Power said the communication between a government and our network had never been poorer and that he had been informed, in a phone call from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, that the decision to remove the funding from 2014-15 had been taken by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.
“This decision is petty and vindictive and is symbolic of the Minister’s very poor relationship with the non-government sector,” Power said.
“While we and other agencies maintain constructive dialogue with other members of the Government, it is clear that Mr Morrison has little interest in the ideas and concerns of non-government agencies which support refugees and asylum seekers.”
RCOA said since starting in 1981, RCOA had grown to a network of 185 organisations, 800 individual members and thousands of supporters.
It said much of this growth had occurred in the past eight years, during which time organisational membership had more than doubled and individual membership had increased ten-fold.
“Our organisation has broad national and international respect as an authentic voice of Australian organisations involved in supporting refugees and asylum seekers,” Power said.
“The ideas we put forward in reports, submissions, letters, public statements and direct lobbying of governments and inter-governmental bodies are based on wide consultation with refugee communities and our member organisations.
“The feedback I get from our members is that we are fair in the way we represent the community sector’s views on refugee policy, giving a balanced critique of government policies and putting forward constructive alternatives.
“Our relationship with government has always waxed and waned, depending on the preparedness of the government of the day to listen to and engage with non-government organisations on matters of refugee policy. However, never has the communication between a government and our network been poorer than it is now and never has there been more despair about a government’s demonisation of people seeking asylum.”
Power said RCOA would respond to the withdrawal of government funding by seeking more support from Australians who see the need for a strong and credible community voice on refugee policy.
“The withdrawal of our core funding represents a tiny cost saving for the Government – less than half of the annual salary of a Minister – but is close to one quarter of our organisational budget. It will hurt us but we have no intention of reducing our small staff team or allowing this cut to distract us from raising a voice for justice and compassion for refugees,” he said.
“We are writing to our supporters asking for their help and will be seeking wider support to raise the funds we have lost.
“We know that there are millions of Australians who are deeply upset about how this Government and the previous Government have treated people seeking protection from persecution. We will be appealing to them to help us become an even stronger voice for humane and common-sense policies for refugees and asylum seekers.”
To support RCOA, visit www.refugeecouncil.org.au/donate