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The Rocky Road To Stop The Boats


The Coalition passed on a poisoned chalice to the ALP in 2007. That of offshore processing. But the ALP put the cup to their lips and drank deeply.

It is now clear that John Howard’s offshore processing system was inherently flawed from the start. The Coalition are trying to avoid this by saying that no one had challenged their Nauru process. Turns out though that was because the Coalition did everything in its power to deny them access to the courts. Further, as you can see from the included images, the Nauru detention centre would not be able of housing 1000 individuals let alone the 5000+ current asylum seekers on the mainland of Australia without considerable and expensive expansion.

The Nauru detention centre in fact only was ever supposed to be a short-term solution.

The detention center on the South Pacific island nation of Nauru was based on a Statement of Principles, signed on 10 September 2001 by the President of Nauru, René Harris, and Australia’s then Minister for Defence, Peter Reith. The statement opened the way to establish a detention center for up to 800 people and was accompanied by a pledge of $20 million in development activities. The initial intake was to be people rescued by the MV Tampa (see Tampa affair), with the understanding that they would leave Nauru by May 2002.


This is a fact that seems to have never been relayed to the Australian Public. When Kevin Rudd’s government closed down the detention centre in December 2007, the Nauru Govt expressed ‘concern at the prospect of potentially losing much-needed aid from Australia’.

Of course they did. That was because to them, it was a cash cow.

Nauru detention centre costs $2m per month

The Federal Government is spending around $2 million per month to operate the immigration detention centre on Nauru.

The facility is currently home to eight detainees.

A Senate Estimates Committee has heard another immigration centre on Manus Island is in a “mothballed state” and is costing taxpayers $3 million per year.

Immigration Department spokesman Bob Correll says the total cost of the two centres comes to more than $27 million per year.

“Our overall projection is around $24 million for Nauru,” he said.

“Sorry, I may have mentioned a figure of $27 million on a per-year basis – $27 million included maintenance costs for Manus, and for Nauru alone it’s around $24 million.”

Confidential negotiations are now under way to determine the future of the eight people still detained on Nauru.

But Mr Correll has told the committee there are no plans to close the facility, despite its high running costs.


I took the pleasure of taking out a calculator.

The cost of off shore detention for not only Nauru, but a centre on Manus island that had not been used in a few years for the 6.3 years between September 2001 and December 2007 cost approximately $170.1 million dollars. This cost was regardless of how many people were being detained. The original number of 800 asylum seekers cost Australian Tax Payers $20 million to set up. This was later expanded in May to 1200 seekers and cost an additional $10 million to set up. All in all around $200 million dollars or $166,666 per man woman and child. But not really.

The majority of detainees stayed in detention for about 3 years. After June 2005 however, only 32 remained. By November 2005 only 2 remained. They were joined in March 2007 with an additional 83 asylum seekers. That means for 2 years, we detained two individuals at a cost of $27 million dollars each.

I find these figures amazing. Why did the government continue to keep two individuals who were legitimate asylum seekers and were taken by other countries? Because they KNEW their Pacific Solution was in fact a Pacific Pain-in-the-Arse. If they were returned to Australia, then they would have finally had access to the courts and they would have challenged the Howard government offshore processing solution and as we now know, would have won. Bugger the money.

The cost of having them in the country was beyond money. It would have cost the Howard government embarrassment and instead of facing that possibility, they kept the two individuals off shore. Instead of spending around $30,000 a year per detainee, they opted to use public monies to maintain face.

The high court decision of November 11, 2010 makes it quite clear. If the detention is managed and controlled by Australians and not by a United Nations sanctioned force, then asylum seekers have the right of appeal. The law may have been untested under the Howard regime, but if it was tested, it would have failed.

So where does this leave the Gillard government? On the one hand, it would not matter if they sent people to Nauru as that would only house 1200 of the almost 5900 seekers in detention today. The cost of a Nauru solution in 2010 would be far more than the 27 million of 2007.

And it would NOT stop the boats. I have already discussed in previous blogs the events I believe contributed to the reduced arrivals under the Howard government regime. What I did not discuss is their manipulation of statistics.

It sounds like the only asylum seekers detained were detained in Nauru. Not true.

Cost of Detention: An indicative break-down of 1999-2000 costs to the public of detaining people shows that it costs much more than the Government’s existing programs for processing and monitoring asylum seekers in the community. In 2000 – 2001, the cost for detention was approximately $104 million, increasing to $120 per day in 2002. It cost approximately $150 million in 2001-2 to detain 3500 people in mainland detention centres.


That’s right. While we kept some people in Nauru, the Howard government also had 3500 individuals on the mainland. And those on the mainland DID have a right of appeal as they had access to the courts.

Compare this to the system that had existed prior to the Pacific Pooh-lution scheme.

Cost of DIMIA’s Programs for Asylum Seekers in the Community: Many asylum claimants living in the community are eligible, for a period of time, for the Government funded Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme (ASAS) which is managed by the Australian Red Cross. In 2000-2001, there were 2,691 people claiming asylum who received ASAS payments. ASAS averages 89 per cent of the Centrelink special benefit.

    • A single male over 21 is paid approximately $400 per fortnight on the scheme, while a couple without dependants is paid approximately $600. Administration costs for the scheme run at an average of 12 per cent. It cost the public purse $11,185,000 in 2001. The Government’s existing processing system for asylum seekers in the community is much cheaper than mandatory detention.

Again I resort to the power of the calculator. A scheme that looked after 2,691 people in 2000-2001 cost us, the tax payer, just $11.185 million or about $4200 a person per year. Whereas the Howard lock them up and throw away the key policy cost $42,000 per person. The concern that the Howard government had was, if they released the seekers into the community, then they may abscond. Again from the same report.

Absconding: DIMIA evidence shows that the fear of absconding is exaggerated. No unauthorised asylum seeker released on a bridging visa in Australia from 1996-1998 failed to meet their reporting obligations to DIMIA. The RTP system has a risk assessment system which minimises absconding.


Now you all may be wondering about the safety of your tall buildings. After all that is why Howard decided to imprison innocent people; out of the possibility that we expose ourselves to terrorists.

Let me get this straight. You spend time and money training operatives to commit a terrorist act. Then you put them on a leaky boat and risk them dying getting to the country you want them to blow things up in. What a load of crock. The terrorists involved in the attack on 9/11 all had passports and visas. VALID passports and visas. Those who engaged in the attack in London also were ‘legal’.

I put it to you that to infiltrate operatives into a country you do not do it in any way that will draw attention to them.

Further ASIO checks are conducted before asylum seekers are released into the community to await their processing. During that time, they have the right to be called and treated as humans.

How dare anyone deny them their right to humanity!

So Australia. It is up to you. We can detain the 5900 seekers at around $60,000 per head or roughly $354 million a year, OR, after ASIO checks, we can show humanity and release them on a Asylum seeker in the community program at a cost of around $35 million a year at $6000 a head.

The stupidity of discrimination is one thing. The cost on the other hand is obscene. It makes me feel dirty that there is a shadow Immigration minister and Opposition leader in this country that preach hate when they know the true facts

It makes me quite cross. In fact, I feel like taking a tuna to the head of Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott.

A. Ghebranious     2010        All Rights Reserved

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