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Public Consultation - Tell us what you think 

We are conducting a series of public consultations on policy ideas and strategies for the development of a large, broad, community-based political movement that can represent the Heart and Soul of Australia.

This survey is designed to get your input. Answers are anonymous unless you indicate otherwise.

Asylum Seekers and Refugees: Time for a New National Consensus

Here are a number of options for building a new national consensus amongst Australians on asylum seekers and refugees.  Choose the options you support (by ticking the appropriate box), and adding additional comments or suggestions.

Nothing demonstrates the leadership and policy failure of both major parties in Australia more dramatically than the issue of asylum seekers and refugees. Both Labor and Liberal have created confusion and deep division in the Australian community, built an expensive monitoring and enforcement regime which has failed to deter arrivals by boat, and failed to build a national consensus around a sensible handling of Australia’s interests and obligations on these issues.

Both parties display little knowledge of the UN Convention on Refugees to which Australia is a signatory. This Convention requires Australia to not return displaced people to their homeland if their lives are at risk. The Convention does not oblige Australia to accept asylum seekers as permanent residents if they are found to be genuine refugees. Nor does it oblige Australia to detain asylum seekers in detention centres, or provide them with welfare benefits on arrival.

There are 56 million displaced people in the world. Australia’s humanitarian intake of 20,000 people as permanent residents is one of the highest per capita of any country in the world, yet even if this number were doubled or quadrupled, its impact on the total number of displaced people will remain marginal. The overwhelming humanitarian need is for short-term assistance and provision of a safe haven for displaced people until such time as they can return safely to their homelands. Permanent residency for refugees in countries like Australia is not a solution to the displacement of 56 million people.

Public opinion on asylum seekers and refugees is more sophisticated than the thinking of both major parties. Polls show Australians distinguish between provision of a temporary safe haven for displaced people, and the granting of permanent residency. Yet both parties confuse these issues. The Monash University - Scanlon Foundation Mapping Social Cohesion Survey conducted in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013 surveyed the views of Australians on three positions on asylum seekers:

38% supported temporary protection visas to provide a safe haven for asylum seekers until such time it is safe for them to return home.

31% supported permanent residency for asylum seekers found to be genuinely seeking refuge from persecution.

30% did not support temporary protection or permanent residency for asylum seekers.

The cohorts of 31% and 30% for permanent residency and against any form of protection respectively suggest that neither of these positions can command majority support in Australia. Neither are likely to win majority support in the forseeable future. The 38% support for temporary protection visas suggests that this is the only position around which a national consensus of opinion is capable of forming.

Both Labor and Liberal are silent on the obligations of asylum seekers and refugees to their own countries. When the international community oversees a reconciliation process in a country that was previously plagued by violence and war, refugees have an obligation to return to their homelands to participate in the process of reconciliation. This obligation is even stronger in situations where Australia supplies military personnel to assist this reconciliation process (as in Afghanistan). Yet both Labor and Liberal are bereft of a language with which to speak about the obligations of refugees to their own countries. Both remain silent on this critical matter. Educated refugees with professional skills are needed more in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq than in Melbourne or Sydney. When Nelson Mandela faced the challenge of seeking reconciliation in South Africa, his message to his fellow South Africans was not "Run away and start a new life in Australia" - it was "Let's build a new nation in our homeland, based on reconciliation".

Our political leaders are also silent on the obligations of Australians to refugees while in Australia. In the 1950s and 60s, many Australian communities sponsored refugees through their own free will. This was a far better system all round - families and communities (often churches) sponsored a refugee family, and not only supported them financially for a limited period, they provided a social support network in civil society that was critical for survival. This emphasis on social support and community integration is completely absent in the depersonalised detention systems erected by Labor and Liberal.

We aim to build a new national consensus in Australia in providing temporary safe haven to a greater number of the world’s displaced people. This consensus is based on five propositions which are outlined below.


In what follows, we present these five propositions which we believe can form the basis for a new national consensus amongst Australians on these issues. Choose the options you support (by ticking the appropriate box), and adding additional comments or suggestions.

Asylum means a Temporary Safe Haven

Australia should offer a greater number of displaced people and asylum seekers a temporary safe haven in Australia until they can safely return home. A Temporary Protection Visa should be introduced to provide a temporary safe haven for an initial period of two years, renewable for a further two years until such time as conditions in the visa holder's country of origin permit their safe return. A two-yearly renewable protection visa removes the carrot of permanent residency and deters any applicant who is not genuinely seeking a safe haven from war or persecution.

Which of these measures do you support?

All asylum seekers who are granted asylum in Australia should be assigned a Temporary Protection Visa for an initial period of two years, renewable for a further two years until such time as conditions in their country of origin permit their safe return.
Australia should double its provision of temporary safe havens for displaced people annually.
Australia should quadruple its provision of temporary safe havens for displaced people annually.
Other (please tell us)

Your comments and suggestions:


 
Offshore-Processing should be Scrapped

The mad scramble of both major political parties to undertake “offshore processing” should be brought to an end. Australia should permit a civilized community-based accommodation of asylum seekers in Australia while an application for a Temporary Protection Visa is assessed. People awaiting a decision on an application for a Temporary Protection Visa should be released into the community and issued with permission to work, but should not be entitled to health or welfare benefits. Accommodation costs should be incurred at their own expense or by their sponsors. Detention centres on the Australian mainland, and on Christmas Island, Manus Island and Nauru, should be de-commissioned as costly and inhuman prison camps.

Which of these measures do you support?

"Off-shore processing" should be scrapped altogether while an application for a Temporary Protection Visa is assessed.
Some form of "off-shore processing" should be sought with neighbouring countries to accommodate asylum seekers while an application for a Temporary Protection Visa is assessed.
Holders of a Temporary Protection Visa should be accommodated in the community and given permission to work.
Holders of a Temporary Protection Visa should be given health and welfare entitlements for the two years of protection.
Other (please tell us)

Your comments and suggestions:

Re-instate Refugee Sponsorship by Individuals and Organisations

In the 1950s and 1960s, Australian individuals and organisations sponsored many refugees and displaced people to find a safe haven in Australia. This Sponsorship Program was highly successful. It not only enabled Australians to extend hospitality and financial support to some of the world's most needy people, it provided networks of social support for refugees in Australia and connected them with the community. Regional and other population centres in Australia that have labour shortages should be able to sponsor displaced people to come to their communities.

Which of these measures do you support?

Sponsorship programs for refugees should be re-introduced so that Australians as individuals, organisations and communities can assist displaced people by bringing them to Australia for Temporary Protection, or sponsoring those in receipt of a Temporary Protection Visa.
Social support and relationships between refugees and sponsoring Australian communities are as important as the provision of a Temporary Protection Visa.
Other (please tell us)

Your comments and suggestions:

Asylum Seekers have an Obligation to Participate in Reconciliation at Home

Asylum seekers have an obligation to return home and contribute to reconciliation in their homeland once it is safe to return. Where there is an internationally supervised reconciliation process underway in their own country (Afghanistan, Iraq, Sri Lanka, and Somalia), asylum seekers should be immediately returned to their homelands to participate in these reconciliation processes. This would apply only to new arrivals, and would not be applied retrospectively. This will unblock the needlessly lengthy waiting times for assessments of claims from asylum seekers from countries which are still ravaged by war and persecution.

Which of these measures do you support?

Asylum seekers have an obligation to return to their homeland and contribute to reconciliation once it is safe to return.
Asylum seekers from countries in which an internationally supervised reconciliation process is underway should be immediately returned to their homelands to participate in these reconciliation processes.
Other (please tell us)

Your comments and suggestions:

People Smugglers should be Subject to the Normal Provisions of the Law

Where people smugglers and their passengers attempt to reach Australia and get into trouble at sea, the normal provisions of Australian and international law should apply: they should be rescued and disembarked at the nearest available port, not transferred to distant sites of detention.

When not in trouble, boats carrying asylum seekers should be intercepted and returned to their port of departure.

Which of these measures do you support?

Where boat people attempt to reach Australia and get into trouble at sea, the normal provisions of Australian and international law should apply: they should be rescued and disembarked at the nearest available port, not transferred to distant sites of detention.
When not in trouble, boats carrying asylum seekers should be intercepted and returned to their port of departure.
Other (please tell us)

Your comments and suggestions:




Optional: 

Name    Email


Thanks for your input.

We will adopt a policy statement incorporating the results of this survey, which will be prepared by the Commission of the Heart and Soul of Australia.

We will use this statement to rally Australians in support of a new national consensus on these issues. To be part of this process, join up by completing this membership form (below). There is no cost.

 

 

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Code of Conduct

  • We welcome diversity of opinion with civility - open discussion and exchange of views in a respectful and courteous manner is required of members. Interactions which are not respectful and courteous will not be permitted.
     

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