Is This an Inconvenient Truth?

Almost every day, of every week, of every month, I receive at least one email contrasting the payments made to asylum seekers with the payments made to Australian pensioners. Perhaps you too have seen them as part of a viral information campaign. These emails suggest that asylum seekers receive more government assistance than an Australian pensioner.

Indeed, I have raised this with the Minister for Immigration during Senate Estimates and have been advised that the email campaign is absolutely false. On that assurance, I too have rejected the legitimacy of the emails circulated, confident in the knowledge that they couldn’t possibly be true.

Now I am not so sure.

Two days ago, I read a report that the illegal arrivals who are detained on Christmas Island are receiving thousands of dollars in benefits from the Australian Government for breaking Australian law by breaching our border security.

One report has a family of four receiving $1066 per fortnight for food – more than many Australian resident families would receive from the Government when faced with extreme economic hardship.

Of course, the payment made to the illegal arrivals reportedly doesn’t include the free accommodation (yes that’s right – a house in the community, not a jail cell!), internet access and an unrestricted phone card so they can contact family and friends. One can only imagine the reports of the land of milk and honey during these taxpayer-funded phone calls.

Frankly, at the risk of being condemned as heartless, I am appalled by this information. These people, who may or may not be legitimate refugees, have already shown themselves to be criminals by breaking the law to enter Australian territory.

Of course, there will be the usual cries that the queue jumpers were so desperate to escape a life-threatening situation that they were forced to take the illegal and risky venture of coming to Australia in a leaky boat. I say that is absolute nonsense.

I cannot recall a single instance where an illegal boat person entering Australian territory had embarked, uninterrupted from their original country of residence. Recent reports are of Afghani or Iranian citizens who have travelled through Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia before paying a people smuggler tens of thousands of dollars for illegal passage to Australia. Hardly the conduct of someone fleeing for their life.

Indeed, recently a group of 70 Afghans were detained in a hotel in Indonesia because they were abandoned by the people smugglers whom they had paid for passage to Australia. One can just imagine their hardship, lounging around the pool, watching satellite TV, waiting for the chance at the good life in Australia.

Of course, the Rudd Government denies that their policies have encouraged the new wave of illegal arrivals into our territorial waters. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that since the immigration laws were softened there has been an influx of boats. Most recently, one of these voyages has met with the tragic loss of life and reinforced the perception that the Rudd Government is not being straight with the Australian people.

I say enough is enough. It is time for a reality check. We have more boats, filled with illegal immigrants, coming every week. Alarmingly, there are reports that when they arrive here, the passengers are offered greater financial support than some Australian citizens and still the Government is in denial.

The Australian people deserve to know the truth of what is causing this influx of illegal immigrants and exactly how their taxpayer dollars are being spent.

We need an independent inquiry to establish the facts surrounding illegal boat arrivals and the use of taxpayer funds that seem to act as an incentive for them to come here.

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