Last Tuesday the government announced that mainland Australia will be excised from Australia’s migration zone to deter asylum seekers http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2012/s3622281.htm
Some of the people who will be responsible for bringing in this new legislation such as Minister Bowen and Anthony Albanese are the ones who spoke out most strongly against the Howard government’s plan to do the same thing back in 2006.
Just as with re-opening detention centres on Manus and Nauru, their justification is that they are following the expert panel’s recommendations.
They look seriously at the camera and say “The expert panel made me do it…”
Of some comfort to those of us who live in Townsville is that we have been re-united with Magnetic Island which was excised from the migration zone in 2006. Excision of off-shore islands back then seemed silly enough – now we have excised mainland Australia and so we are in “No-man’s land” together.
Last Thursday Townsville had a visit from the Refugee Council of Australia (RCA). The RCA is the peak advocacy body for refugees and asylum seekers and they are currently conducting consultations in preparation for their annual submission to government.
The consultation, conducted by Louise Olloff RCA’s settlement officer, included a presentation on the current world refugee situation and the implications of the recommendations of the expert panel.
The presentation can be downloaded from the RCA’s website
The RCA paper cites the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) who estimates that there are 859,000 asylum seekers and refugees who will need resettlement in the next few years. Of these 180,000 will need to be resettled in 2013 and currently there are only 81,000 available places.
The number sounds high until we remember that Australia’s official immigration target for 2013 is 180,000 of whom only 20,000 will be refugees and asylum seekers.
Surely with some creative education and training programs we could take more than 20,000 from among those in desperate need of resettlement.
Maybe this is what our politicians could be exercising their minds about rather than hair-brain schemes of excision.
Now I could get excited about excising Canberra from the rest of Australia but that would be unfair to the people of Canberra.
How about Parliament House during a joint sitting?