According to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre it costs approximately $350,000 to detain just one asylum seeker for a year on Nauru. With the application of its bizarre “no advantage” test, the Government is talking about leaving asylum seekers on Nauru for five years and more, even if they are found on Day 1 to be genuine refugees.
Good policy-making always involves not only the ethical and moral choices that are conspicuously absent here (“what is the right thing to do”), but also a sober consideration of the alternative uses of the funds. If you were to meet an asylum seeker face to face and ask yourself the question “What would be the best way for the Australian community to spend $1.75 million on this person?” would you come up with the answer, “Incarcerate him/her on Nauru for five years”?
For a fairly typical nuclear family of a couple and two children we are talking about spending $7 million over the five year period. For my money I would rather buy them a nice house in Toorak, a car, an education for their kids, and a lifetime annuity with the funds left over.
A society which invests hundreds of millions of dollars per annum in destroying people who will ultimately become permanent residents has truly lost its way.
It gets worse when you consider that the Nauru solution, which is immune to the cuts to Government expenditure that have been applied in pursuit of a budget surplus, has been funded by savings elsewhere, such as the reduction in benefits to single mothers – a genuine lose-lose solution if ever there was one. For a government with social democratic pretensions, led by a person who claimed to be of the Left, this is truly bizarre. You couldn’t make it up.