Taking refuge in fear

• Club Med? Hardly; Iranian photographer Kaaveh Maleknia’s view from detention on Manus Island could almost a poster for a travel company, if it weren’t for the terrible back story.

Fremantle resident DR TOM VOSMER is a maritime archaeologist who lived and worked in the Middle East for decades. He is appalled at the vast amounts of money the federal government has spent on offshore detention.

FEAR-MONGERING, the refuge of scoundrels and unpopular politicians, is getting a workout.

PM Scott Morrison is off for a photo opportunity on Christmas Island, where he wants to place any allegedly dangerous detainee who is medivacced from offshore.

But does anyone find it puzzling that our government was happy to let these alleged rapists, murderers, paedophiles, and criminals wander around the communities of Nauru and Manus for years, then have security checks quickly completed in 2019 to brand them a dire threat to Australia?

We must not really think much of Nauru and PNG.

It costs us more than $1000 a day to keep a refugee in offshore detention–more expensive than a 5-star hotel room and $400,000 per year per refugee.

Economically, it’s insane. Morally, it’s repugnant.

Nauru, dependent on Australian largesse, is loathe to give up its lucrative asylum seeker ‘processing’ business.

They don’t want to lose their primary industry. It is no coincidence that Nauru just passed a law to prohibit online medical assessment, a globally recognised effective system.

With a dearth of qualified doctors–especially since Nauru kicked out Médecins sans Frontières–this plays nicely into their hands, as well as that of our federal government.

This is not the first time Nauru has precipitously created laws to hinder medical transfers, and as opaque as government handling of refugees has been, it would not surprise me that there was some inter-government skulduggery happening there.

And how much will Nauru charge for a visa for a doctor to come to make an assessment? Perhaps the $8000 they charge journalists? Non-refundable if refused of course.

The decision to reopen Christmas Island to accommodate and treat the alleged incoming flood is unnecessary, ill-advised, and economically irresponsible.

Medical problems

Christmas Island authorities have stated they have no facilities to treat even minor medical problems, no surgery, and no mental health treatment available at all.

It will cost a fortune–Mr Morrison’s estimate is $1.4 billion–to get such facilities ready.

Rightly, Mr Morrison is loudly complaining about the cost. But it is a self-imposed cost. Surely secure facilities are available in Australia.

Meanwhile on Manus, Paladin was granted a no-contest contract for $422 million without a tender process.

At the time the company was based at a property on Kangaroo Island with no phone and no mailbox.

The auditor general said in a 2017 report that the management of the offshore contracts “has fallen well short of effective contract management practice”.  It seems nothing has changed.

Home affairs minister Peter Dutton now claims that hundreds of transferees will come to Australia and bump Aussies down the medical waiting lists.

There are only 70 who need urgent treatment–in Australia we have 1330 hospitals with about 100,000 beds–surely we can manage 70.

Mr Dutton also claims Australians will be “kicked off” public housing waiting lists or “kicked out of that housing”.

On the same day, the Reserve Bank and the housing industry were warning that any cut in migration numbers would have adverse impacts on the housing market and therefore the economy.

If the government is serious about the pressures on health and housing service they should worry about the 64,000 asylum seekers who arrived by plane in the last four years, about 15 per cent of whom get to stay in Australia.

Had our government been performing its duty of care with refugees there would have been no need for the Phelps bill. Instead the government vigorously resisted medical transfer referrals, fighting them in court, spending $750,000 of taxpayers’ money, and losing every case.

Unfortunately for some refugees the resolution of their cases was too late–they died.

Well, at least we’re saving money hey? No more $1000 per day for those people.

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