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Greens lay out radical refugee policy

13 April 20160 comments

This week The Greens proposed an increased intake of refugees in Australia that will rise up to 50,000 every year.

The plan would see 40,000 refugees and asylum seekers given resettlement on humanitarian grounds every year.

Another 10,000 refugees would be given entry through a “skilled refugee” stream aimed at importing skills deemed to be in short supply in the country.

According to Greens immigration spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young, shutting offshore detention facilities would make the proposed program ‘cost-neutral’.

The policy, to be announced on Saturday, would shut the Manus and Nauru offshore detention centres, and also proposes a “dignity package” for asylum seekers waiting to have refugee claims processed in Malaysia and Indonesia, designed as a disincentive for people to try to reach Australia by boat.

“Closing down Manus and Nauru would save almost $3 billion dollars,” she said.

The policy was launched at the weekend by Sen. Hanson-Young and Greens leader, Richard Di Natale.

Australia’s humanitarian migration intake is current 13,750 people a year, and there are plans to increase this to 18,500 by 2017-18.

In 2012, the intake reached a peak not seen since the 1980s, when it rose to 20,000.

Sen. Di Natale has long been a supporter of more progressive migration and refugee policies.

The following is a transcript of Senator Di Natale’s speech to the FECCA conference last year:

Greens party leader, Richard Di Natale

Greens party leader, Senator Richard Di Natale

“Multiculturalism is one of Australia’s enduring successes that should be sustained and protected.

I grew up in a migrant family. My mother and her parents left San Marco, a small village in southern Italy, to board a ship for Australia in the late 1950s.

They didn’t speak any English, but my grandfather opened a grocery shop in Brunswick in Victoria, took mum and her sisters out of school and put them to work in the shop. My father left Sicily for Australia when he was 29.

He did an electrical apprenticeship here and worked his life on building sites, but I think he was always frustrated that had he been born at a different time; would have been an academic.

When he retired he did an arts degree in languages and a thesis on the Renaissance. Their stories are just two in the wide diversity of experiences that created our multicultural Australia.

It is on their shoulders, and those of millions of families just like theirs, that this nation has been built.

The Greens see multiculturalism as a core part of our vision for Australia’s long-term identity. Rather than dividing us, it compels us to be clear about those things that unite us as a community: respect for our democratic institutions, for universal human rights, and for equality of opportunity.

Celebrating and sustaining our diverse community means actively working for social inclusion through access to health, education and other services. As politicians we need to facilitate full participation – making sure that public services are accessible to the entire public.

This means translation of these values into our schools and making sure culturally and linguistically diverse kids are being supported.

In terms of hospitals and health, we need to think about what we can do to improve translation services, to make sure that medical practitioners understand the importance of professional translation services to good outcomes.

I know this is an issue FECCA is well aware of. We need to carefully examine the barriers that are making it difficult for people with limited English skills to access social assistance and government services.

FECCA’s Multicultural Access report highlighted the community concern that currently exists about Government moves to shift services delivery to online platforms.

As the report noted, “the push to use online services to obtain or provide information is based on the flawed assumption that everyone accessing these services is computer literate, has access to the internet, and can speak English.”

We need to make sure that in reforming our systems, we don’t disenfranchise whole sections of our community in the process. As FECCA has proposed in its Multicultural Access and Equity report, the Greens are committed to a whole-of government approach to implementation and evaluation of the Multicultural Access and Equity Policy.

Our Government works on behalf of all Australians, and needs to be accessible to all Australians. This is an important way of achieving that goal.

Our ethos of multiculturalism is precious and needs protecting. As a community we are facing a challenge from a small number of people would act without respect for human life.

I believe in the strength that comes from community, from connections between people. That we must look to why young people are getting caught up in extremism and act at the community level.

Mothers shouldn’t have to fear for their kids. Let’s recognise that prevention is the way we build a unified and harmonious nation.

We need to make sure that we look at why young people are being caught up in some of these acts of extremism; the social isolation, the disconnection, the marginalisation that exists amongst some of our young people.

I am alarmed at Government proposals that would further erode civil liberties and human rights, and further alienate the young people and communities we need to be reaching out to.

Draconian legislation doesn’t make us safer, and it doesn’t prevent violent acts. To date, the Government has been far too focused on punitive measures – fundamentally, we need to shift this to focus on prevention. It is hard work to engage with young people feeling isolated and alone, but it is necessary work.

There’s been a large community campaign in defence of section 18C of our Racial Discrimination Act and the Greens are very proud to have been part of that. This is an unpredictable issue that keeps rearing its head – there are many people in the Liberal party that want to water down the law to give a green light to racism and discrimination.

As a community, we already work hard to put a stop to this ugliness, and our laws help us to do that – on our streets, on our football fields, in our schools. We’ll continue to fight to protect our community against the legalisation of vilification.

Now I’m going to talk about refugees because the Australian story is one of many diverse people and backgrounds coming together to enrich our shared experience. It’s a story of open doors – not turn-backs.

We are strong enough, and our humanity large enough, to welcome the persecuted with open arms. To that end we were encouraged by the Government’s recent increase in refugee settlement numbers in response to the growing humanitarian crisis in Syria.

But we need an equitable humanitarian program that is responsive to the refugee situation occurring across the world and that meets growing global needs for resettlement.

We cannot laud our openness and understanding whilst we continue to detain in horrendous circumstances those who have fled to Australia for safety and a new life. We must close the detention camps on Manus and Nauru, stop trying to offload our responsibilities onto other nations, and work towards a genuine regional response that respects the lives of asylum seekers.

And for those asylum seekers who are here in Australia, we need to make sure we provide clear pathways to citizenship. As one asylum seeker reported, “If you are an asylum seeker you don’t have a life. On bridging visas we have no future, no plan.

In detention you are in a compound surrounded by bars. But when you live in a society without basic rights, it is just another detention but bigger and wider.”

It is incumbent on all politicians and public figures to try to protect communities from vilification and isolation and to help redress the misplaced fear that some people hold towards other cultures and religions.

This is a question of leadership. Recognising that multiculturalism is one of our country’s greatest assets, I look forward to working with those gathered here and the broader community to promote inclusion, acceptance and community harmony.

We are better because of our diversity, because of families like mine and yours that have chosen to make Australia their home.

Know that you have an ally in protecting your communities from vilification, from social isolation, and in tackling head on those misplaced fears that many people would use against different cultures and religions, and let’s celebrate.

Let’s celebrate the great thing that is Australian multiculturalism, because we are a better nation for it.”


Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist