Plan for Tassie as Asylum Seeker Processing Centre
11 November 2014 at 11:28 am
A plan developed by Tasmanian community leaders and human rights activists would see the island-state become Australia's asylum seeker processing centre.
The Tasmania Opportunity Leaders Summit in Launceston heard the case for making the state an asylum seeker processing centre from leaders including human rights lawyer and refugee advocate Julian Burnside QC.
Burnside, who recently won this year's Sydney Peace Prize, said Tasmania offered an alternative to the Federal Government's Sovereign Borders policy – an alternative that was more humane and better value for the Australian taxpayer and the Tasmanian economy.
The proposal put together by the Tasmania Opportunity group includes allowing people to live and work in the Tasmanian community, receive Centrelink benefits and live where the Government determined the greatest benefit for the local economy is.
“It is a plan to transition Australia’s offshore asylum-seeker processing from three extremely expensive current locations to the obvious smarter, cheaper, safer option – Tasmania,” the group’s website said.
The Group’ proposal said an injection of $1billion a year would relieve pressures on the state’s health, education, infrastructure and development budgets whilst increasing consumer spending and the size of the state economy.
“This plan would strengthen existing Government agencies and service organisations, enhancing outcomes for all Tasmanians and interstate visitors,” the proposal said.
“There would be a focus on capacity-building investment and empowering small enterprises across multiple sectors, including agriculture, industry, tourism and arts.”
“The Tasmania Opportunity is a necessary, responsible, safe, humane, and compassionate response to the current global refugee crisis,” Julian Burnside said.
Burnside told the Summit that asylum seekers should be seen as a resource, not a threat.
He said the Federal Government spent $5 billion a year on asylum seekers, and that Tasmania was a much more cost-effective option.
"If you can reduce that cost dramatically to one-tenth of what it is at the moment, and in the process avoid doing harm to frightened people and do some good for the Tasmanian economy, that seems a good thing all round," he said.
"They would be bringing in to the community not only their courage and their initiative but also the income that they can earn.”
Burnside said there were some conditions that should be attached to any planned move to make Tasmania a refugee processing centre.
He said asylum seekers would still be detained on arrival for one month only, for health and security screening.
Burnside said further conditions needed to met under the plan such as refugees should be engaged in education, training and work, and they must live in a region designated by the Government.