COMMENTS from leading human rights campaigner Julian Burnside calling for community processing of asylum seekers have been met with a mixed reaction from local election candidates.
Mr Burnside told the Bendigo Advertiser asylum seekers should be released into the community after one month in detention, with the right to work and Centrelink benefits, while their claims were processed.
He said rural and regional towns should be the focus of the idea, which would provide “an injection of new people and fresh money” in struggling country areas.
“It will create jobs in communities that are shrinking,” he said.
“It’s also much cheaper than our present system.”
Greens candidate Lachlan Slade, who attended an asylum seeker forum that featured Mr Burnside at the weekend, welcomed his stance. “I think that’s a fantastic idea,” he said.
“Locking them up in detention is costing more than giving them Centrelink benefits. It’s not giving them any more than any other Australian is getting at the moment.
“In rural communities it would be particularly welcome because quite often there’s a chronic shortage of people willing to work in smaller rural communities.”
When asked about recent comments from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Foreign Minister Bob Carr that many asylum seekers to Australia were not genuine refugees, Labor candidate Lisa Chesters said the government wanted to ensure the United Nations’ definition of refugees was adhered to.
She said asylum seekers should be processed in Australia.
“What the ALP is talking about is ensuring that the definition of refugees is in accordance with the definition of the UNHCR’s definition of refugees,” Ms Chesters said.
“I believe any government regardless of their political persuasion always must uphold its obligation to the refugee convention.With Julian Burnside, other community leaders will continue to have ideas on how best to manage this international global problem.”
When asked about Mr Burnside’s stance, Liberal candidate Greg Bickley said the government’s policies had failed.
“The policies of the Coalition stopped the boats,” he said.
“So we did not have this problem on the scale that we’re seeing today.
“Kevin has rolled out the Rudd carpet for the people smugglers and is proliferating their business model.”