Monday, January 11, 2010

Rudd versus Asylum Seekers, Asylum Seekers Win

The average Australian earning over $35,000 a year is taxed at a rate of 30 to 45% by the Australian Tax Office each year. This money is used to fund, amongst other things, the Christmas Island detention centre to process asylum-seekers seeking refuge in Australia. It was estimated in 2004 that each detainee was costing the Australian people up to $725 per day. More recently, it has been revealed that the Christmas Island detention facilities had cost the Federal Government $45 million  more than it had budgeted for this year. More taxpayer money is being pumped into the centre to boost its capacity.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has previously stated that the Christmas Island detention facility was bad policy and that it was a "white elephant". He is now being forced to pump more taxpayer money, money which the taxpayers have had to work hard to earn, to support a bunch of asylum seekers who have not followed the proper policies laid down by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In fact, the recent standoff by the Oceanic Viking and the subsequent granting of asylum to two Sri Lankans demonstrates Mr Rudd's inability to defend the sovereignty of Australia.

One of the most fundamental rights of a Sovereign State since the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) is the right exercise supreme authority over all subjects within its territory, including the power to make and enforce its laws. While the issue of asylum seekers is a global issue, Mr Rudd's lack of a coherent policy to tackle this problem has exaggerated the issue for Australia. As Opposition Leader Tony Abbott aptly described it:

"[This] shows that Mr Rudd was blackmailed ... effectively blackmailed, into giving people what they wanted ... they held that ship for about a month and that shouldn't have happened. It seems every day another boat (carrying asylum seekers) arrives". 

Furthermore, Mr Rudd's policy of redirecting the boats to Indonesia creates two problems. Indonesia is apparently justified in processing these asylum seekers because of the monetary assistance Australia has provided to fund its detention centres. This doesn't solve any problems, it is merely passing on the issue to Indonesia. It also strains relations Indo-Australian relations. Secondly, as Mr Abbott rightly points out, it sends the wrong message to asylum seekers that "if you get to Indonesia you also get to Australia, because of the deal that Mr Rudd did with the people on the Oceanic Viking".