A Proposal To Manage Asylum Seeker And Australian Community Integration Without The Need And Expense Of Mandatory Detention
Perry Gamsby, D.Lit., MA(Writing), Dip Bus, CertIV TAA,
© P.Gamsby 2012
The current policy of mandatory detention for asylum seekers is not ideal politically, economically and morally. The solution proposed here as ‘Project Clancy’ will offer a new model of management that addresses each of those major aspects and provides a solution that is acceptable to the majority of Australians.
It is proposed to form small hamlets of Australian and Asylum Seeker families (ASF) in remote rural locations and house the ASF there for a period of 1-2 years. During this time they will be assisted in learning English, understanding the Australian culture and our cultural values and develop vocational skills and qualifications.
At the end of the period the ASF contract to they are encouraged to remain in the local area although they are, of course, free to relocate as they prefer. In time the scope of the project will expand to allow a turnover of ASF every 3-6 months so that those who have been in the project longer can assist with assimilating the new arrivals.
The reality is asylum seekers continue to arrive off Christmas Island and there is no need to reiterate the facts regarding the cost, the danger and the moral and political issues of this reality. Many ASF are living in very poor conditions in Indonesia and Malaysia and will continue to do so while the current process used is maintained. A different approach is needed and Project Clancy is a pilot project that may be able to be replicated on a large enough scale as to provide a viable long term solution.
These ASF are costing the Australian taxpayer millions of dollars no matter where they are placed or how they are looked after. They are remaining in detention for long periods of time, often not months but years and all at great cost to the taxpayer in terms of dollars and the ASF themselves in other ways.
Project Clancy will not cost any more per head than is already spent and it is envisaged it will be largely self funding in future.
These people are going to be in detention for a long time and the most likely outcome is they will be granted some kind of visa to remain in Australia for a period of time. During this time they could be far more productive and helpful to the Australian economy and for their own future prospects.
The likelihood of any individual ‘escaping’ the Project is no greater than if they were in detention or allowed into the community with a temporary bridging visa. Their objective is to come to Australia and start a new life here for them and their families. That is what Project Clancy is giving them, why would they risk instant deportation?
3.0 Project Structure
Project Clancy is designed to provide ASFs with hope, dignity and a head start into a new life in the Australian community. As such, two of the ten families will be Australian citizens currently in need of emergency housing and employment, retraining and so forth. Their role will be to assist ASFs in assimilating Australian culture and local ways while assisting themselves in getting out of the cycle of poverty and hopelessness many Australians face. The families may be single parent situations, indigenous or long term unemployed persons screened and deemed suitable for the project and willing to accept diversity and so forth. They will be expected to work within the project for the two year contracted period.
The eight ASFs will be split between ethnic groups to give all a ‘fair go’ and to encourage cross cultural exchange. It is envisaged the project will include two families from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Sri Lankan groups as these are the predominant groups within detention at present. The important point is to ensure that ‘ghetto’ mentality is not created and that right from the start all participants are aware of the multi-cultural diversity of Australia in the 21st Century.
The project will have three basic stages.
3.1 Stage 1 Preparation And Planning
This will take 12 months and consist of three phases.
3.1.1 Phase 1 will be the creation of the Project Clancy team, recruitment and initial training and deployment.
3.1.2 Phase 2 will see the construction of the Project Clancy hamlet and infrastructure in readiness for the first ASFs.
3.1.3 Phase 3 Will be the period during which suitable ASFs are screened and selected and made ready for introduction to the Project.
3.2 Stage 2 Implementation And Operation
This stage will also have two phases.
3.2.1 Phase 1 Orientation
3.2.2 Phase 2 Operational
3.3 Stage 3 Assessment And Adjustment
As the project develops there will be ongoing assessment activities to ensure the project is operating effectively and achieving its objectives. As the second stage comes to a close and ASFs are looking to move on or remain within the community the adjustments deemed necessary to the project will be made and the overall success of the project determined before funding for ongoing operations is sought.
The funding needed to manage the project is allocated for the entire period of the pilot project, 3 years. Funding for Stages 2 and 3 is invested to produce income of at least 5% return, most likely in some form of Government Bonds to ensure transparency and security of investment. It is important that the entire funding is made available from the start so that it can be properly managed by Project Management and that there is no fear of any cuts to the funding due to political vagaries and changes in policy, government and so forth. Once the funding is signed off it must be provided in its entirety to ensure the project can continue, if for no other reason than people’s lives, hopes and dreams are riding on the project and as this, at the core, is all about human dignity, we must minimize the potential for failure wherever possible.
All funds will be managed and accounted for under the strictest standards applicable to the handling of public monies.
4.1 Funding Required
The amount of funding and breakdown of expenditure is attached as Annex A. In a nutshell it is believed $115 per asylum seeker, per day is adequate. As the number of asylum seekers, men, women and children, will be limited to 10 families of no more than two adults and six children per family group (or one adult member of an extended family in lieu of two minors per family, eg 3 adults and 4 children, 4 adults and 2 children) the total amount of funding over the three year period of the project is $10 million.
It is noted here that the current cost per asylum seeker in detention to the Australian Taxpayer is considerably in excess of $115 per person per day. The true cost is not known to this writer as many of the details are hidden in various budgets and subject to political leverages that distort and disguise the true amount.
4.2 Budget Allocation
4.2.1 Again, refer to the detailed figures in Annex A. Overall,
Housing $3million, including offices and community shared facilities.
Training and education $2 million
Staff salaries $1.5million
ASF salaries $3.5 million
4.2.2 Expenditure & Interest Phase 1
Interest on $8 million @ 6.13% = $490,400
Balance of account: $8,490,400
4.2.3 Expenditure & Interest Phase 2
Expenditure $4million, balance in bank $4,490,400. Interest @ 6.13% = $275,261 Balance $4,765,661
4.2.4 Expenditure & Interest Phase 3
Expenditure $4million, balance in bank $765,661. Interest @ 6.13% = $46,935
When the interest from the funds in the active account is included there is little doubt the project will end up with $1million in surplus funds.
Interest on funding $1,000,000
Return on tax PAYG $181,000
Return on PAYG Staff $201,656
GST paid by ASFs $30,000
Rent on housing $200,000
Medicare Contribution $120,000
Australian families Cont. $100,000
Value of Housing $2,500,000
Training & Education $1,000,000
Total Return To Govt: $5,332,656
See below for explanation of figures above. It is envisaged that, with the money returned to the government (bar the value of the housing), the next two years could be funded. At approximately $3.5million per annum, by the time The second group are half way through a second set of ten homes could be constructed and the program would grow exponentially, as well as being commenced in other locations where such a boost to the local economy would be bid for by local councils who would offer subsidized rates and services in return for choosing their LGA.
4.3 ASF Salaries
Each of the ten families is budgeted for $100K pa and from this will be paid a salary in lieu of Centrelink Benefits of $50K pa. This will be subject to tax at the applicable rate and return approx. $9,100 pa. or $91,000 per year for two years for the Project, total $182,000.
Of the $40,900 remaining, a rental charge is made of 20% of gross income for housing, $10,000 per family per year, or $200,000 in total.
If GST is paid on half the remaining income the government will recoup $1,500 per year per family, or $30,000 over the project life.
4.5 Medicare/Private Health Coverage
Asylum seekers in detention receive free medical care. It is envisaged either a contribution to Medicare is allocated from the ASF Salary Budget or private health coverage is negotiated en-masse for the project participants. A nominal figure of $500 per family, per month is allocated, or $120K for the project in total.
4.6 Australian Families Contribution
As two of the ten families will be Australian citizens currently receiving Centrelink benefits and emergency housing assistance, the savings enjoyed by including these people into the program are estimated at about $100K overall conservatively, not including the cost of providing the emergency accommodation, just Centrelink entitlements. The adults in these families will be employed within the Project and their labour will ease the burden on staff salary allocation.
4.7 Staff Salaries
Staff will include the Project Manager ($150K pa) and five staff ($70K pa each). Over three years the PAYG tax will be approximately $201K. As local residents will be employed, housing will not be provided. There is an allocation of $500,000 for additional staffing, casuals and contractors etc.
4.8 Housing of ASF
Each family will be allocated a four bedroom home that will be built for the project at a cost of $200,000 including purchase of land and all other expenses. This figure takes into account housing available for purchase from NSW Housing in areas of Western Sydney. The construction will create employment for locals in the project area. Where practicable costs of design and construction will be minimized by using TAFE and similar projects to construct the housing to code and budget.
At the end of the project the housing will be valued and for our purposes a value of $2.5million has been applied to infrastructure.
4.9 Training and Education
Each ASF participant will be given intensive English Language instruction (subject to appropriate age etc) and those of school age will receive a full NSW school education. The budget will be spent wherever possible with existing government education and training providers such as TAFE, NSW Department of Education public schools, high schools etc. Otherwise, all programs will be In-House. It is envisaged that at least $1million will be returned to public coffers through payment for pre-school, primary, secondary and vocational education and training.
The remaining $1million will be spent within the region with local RTOs enjoying a boost to their business. The plan is for all children to receive a good education and in so doing will no doubt assimilate very quickly into the local community. The adults, males and females, will be offered training in vocational streams that they can then leverage for full time employment at the end of the project. Preference will be given for jobs perceived to be in need, especially in rural areas and the focus will be on keeping as many ASFs in the country after the project end as possible.
5.0 Project Outcomes
It is hoped that the project achieves these outcomes:
1. The long term improvement in the quality of life of ASFs and the rural communities they are introduced to through the cultural assimilation of ASFs into Australian mainstream community life.
2. The improvement of those rural communities in economic and other ways through their involvement with the Project.
3. An improvement in the international community view of Australia, Australians and our place in a democratic and humane world.
6.0 Why ‘Project Clancy’?
Project Clancy is named after a famous Australian character, Banjo Patterson’s ‘Clancy of the Overflow’. He stands as a symbol of the Australian values of mateship, a fair go and a love of this great land we can all share.
Clancy of the Overflow
Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson
I HAD written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just on spec, addressed as follows, “Clancy, of The Overflow”.
And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar)
’Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
“Clancy’s gone to Queensland droving, and we don’t know where he are.”
. . . . .
In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving “down the Cooper” where the Western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.
And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars.
. . . . .
I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all.
And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street,
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.
And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.
And I somehow rather fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal—
But I doubt he’d suit the office, Clancy, of The Overflow.