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The cost of a claim

29 August 2013

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Peter Whiteford is a Professor in the Crawford School. He works on child poverty, family assistance policies, welfare reform, and other aspects of social policy, particularly ways of supporting the balance between work and family life. He has published extensively on various aspects of the Australian and New Zealand systems of income support. He teaches Social Policy, Society and Change (POGO8024) and Social Policy Analysis (POGO8025).

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Claims that asylum seekers are paid more than Australian senior citizens and disability pensioners are incorrect, according to a Crawford School expert.

Clive Palmer, founder of the Palmer United Party recently told the National Press Club “Our senior citizens and our disability pensioners are paid less than newly arrived asylum seekers.”

Defending his claim Palmer said “First of all, we’ve got the amount of money paid to asylum seekers paid directly as a pension. Asylum seekers are costing Australia about $6 billion all up to look after them, house them in camps and also to house them and interact with them.”

But writing on The Conversation Professor Peter Whiteford, Director of the Social Policy Institute at Crawford School, said Palmer’s claim is incorrect.

“Those in detention undergoing the processing of their claims are not entitled to Centrelink benefits at all. People in community detention or on bridging visas receive payments through the Australian Red Cross of a little more than half of the payments made to pensioners,” Whiteford said.

“If an asylum seeker is ultimately found to be a refugee and granted a visa, they then become a permanent resident and have access to exactly the same entitlements as any other resident or citizen of Australia: no more, no less. DIAC also helps eligible refugees with English-language lessons and modest settling-in assistance.”

Whiteford added that the source of the $6 billion figure Palmer refers to is unclear.

“The Liberal Party Labor=Waste website claimed a few years ago that there was an immigration budget blow out caused by asylum seekers of over $6 billion, but this was over a period of four years, while the Opposition Shadow Minister has more recently noted that in 2013/14 the ‘asylum budget’ for the Department of Immigration is estimated to be more than $3.2 billion.

“While policies towards asylum seekers arriving by boats have clearly increased in terms of costs, the $6 billion figure does not appear to be based on official figures.

“In addition, detaining people is expensive, but to count the cost of detention as a ‘benefit’ to asylum seekers is equivalent to saying that imprisonment is a benefit for criminals,” he said.

Read Peter Whiteford’s piece for The Conversation:

By Amelia Bidgood.

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