ASYLUM seeker advocate Julian Burnside QC says Tasmania should be declared a haven for asylum seekers in a move that would save the nation billions of dollars and boost the state’s economy.
Mr Burnside outlined his proposal of a “Tasmanian solution” to Australia’s offshore asylum seeker processing crisis during a public lecture in Hobart.
Social welfare groups such as the Tasmanian Council of Social Service say Mr Burnside’s “bold and sweeping plan” has serious merit and should be considered by the incoming Abbott Government.
Premier Lara Giddings said she would not be supportive of a series of permanent prison-like detention centres being set up around the state.
“We have been welcoming of the Pontville detainees but we need to be cautious about going down a pathway too far,” Ms Giddings said from Asia yesterday.
Mr Burnside said the Pontville experience had shown Tasmanians were open to having asylum seekers in the community.
He said Tasmania was a logical place for the proposal to be trialled with its island status and historical link to being a place of detention.
“But I am not talking about these people being banged up in detention centres but allowed to live and spend in the community,” he said.
“These new detainees would spend in the community and provide a population boost to struggling rural towns.”
Mr Burnside proposed the Tasmanian Government be offered a $1 billion sweetener to embrace the idea.
“If we did this, and even if every asylum seeker was on Centrelink benefits, Australia would still be saving $2 billion a year,” Mr Burnside said.
“That is a huge amount of money and the solution would be a huge benefit to Tasmania.”
Mr Burnside said he would float the idea with the new Federal Government.
“I cannot believe the Australian people are comfortable with the nation spending $4 billion a year to damage people when we could spend half that and help not only the individual asylum seekers but the state of Tasmania and rural communities crying out for a population boost,” he said.
TasCOSS chief executive Tony Reidy said the incoming Prime Minister should look seriously at the proposal.
“Tasmania is ideally situated to take this on,” Mr Reidy said yesterday.
“Asylum seekers are typically coming from desperate situations and coming here while their applications are being assessed would be like arriving in paradise.
“This is a humane way of dealing with Australia’s asylum seeker problem and it would provide a significant boost to Tasmania, especially if regional and rural settlements were accompanied by the provision of social security benefits and significant resourcing to the Tasmania Government to quadruple its affordable housing efforts.
“We need instant action to keep Tasmania’s builders, shopkeepers and other small businesses gainfully employed and this bold idea could be just the thing.”
This has to be one of the most crazy ideas that has been suggested in recent times as a band aid fix to a global problem. Tasmania’s European settlement was established as a penal settlement to rid England’s so called thieves, murderers etc, but that was ceased in 1853 now Julian Burnside wants to essentially return the state to an island detention centre. So does that make the current Australian citizens (Tasmania’s current population) in “detention” making us a 2nd class to those who live in the other states/territories? Clearly should this plan even get off the ground I can see a lot of people who will be forced out of their homes because they won’t want to be in a state of detention!
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