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Letters to Eureka Street

Setting an example

It seems that it is not enough for our sports-people to be setting the standard for athletes around the world. Nor is it enough that Australian actors and musicians have become a force to be reckoned with on the world stage. After spending a few weeks in the UK, where I will be studying for a year, I’ve discovered another great Aussie export which has been filling the Home Office in Britain with glee for some time now: our refugee and asylum seeker regime.

Imagine the pride I felt upon discovering that the ‘Pacific Solution’ was the inspiration for a similar idea—the less exotically labelled ‘New Vision’—which proposes to automatically send asylum seekers, refugees, and other migrants arriving in the UK to ‘regional protection zones’ where they will be detained in ‘transit processing centres’ located at the external borders of the EU in order to submit their claims. The masterstroke of the British proposal is the range of nations at its disposal. The suggested ‘host’ countries currently include Albania, Croatia, Iran, Morocco, Northern Somalia, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. All have serious records of violating the rights of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. As this method finds no support in international law, Australia and Britain can now join forces as pioneering nations of the gulags of the 21st century.

Patriotic sentiments have also been stirred by the extent to which the system of detention has been catching on here. Around 1,800 asylum seekers are locked up without trial and without a time limit. Furthermore, in addition to around a dozen centres already in operation here, construction is underway for new detention centres with target capacities of 4,000. And, unlike Aussies who detain asylum seekers in ‘Reception and Processing Centres’, over here a spade is a spade, and asylum seekers

coming across the English Channel are kept in the Dover ‘Removals’ Centre.

When it comes to record-holding however, Australia is clearly in front. The Brits are still able to express shock over the fact that some asylum seekers have been detained for up to two years. The case of two Turkish girls held in detention for 13 months recently provoked an outcry. Have no fear Australia, the record is safe with us for a while yet.

But Australians must not get too complacent, as Britain has plenty of ideas to offer our corridors of power. Just the other day, for example, the Shadow Home Secretary David Davis pledged to ‘substantially cut’ immigration because, in his words, it endangered ‘the values that we in Britain rightly treasure’. He later claimed that uncontrolled immigration would ‘fill six new cities the size of Birmingham over the next three decades’. Substitute Birmingham for Geelong and Senator Vanstone could have her next policy platform.

Christine Bacon
Oxford, UK

Nanny nonsense

Anne Summer’s claim that the taxpayer should fund nannies (Eureka Street, September 2004) shows how unreal the world has become. There is no justification whatsoever for the taxpayer to subsidise the incomes of middle and upper-class families who do not want to look after their own children.

It is now unexceptional for both parents to work, but that decision should be made with both the costs and the benefits falling on the family which makes it. The taxpayer ought to keep children out of poverty and ought therefore to fund generous child allowances for all families. The family can choose then whether one parent stays at home to look after the children or goes out to work and outsources the care of
the children.

Labor’s acceptance of the ideas of a transferable tax-free threshold and a higher threshold for the phasing out of family benefits is a fantastic step for all families, especially low paid ones. But it should go further. The best arrangement would be to lift both the individual and the transferable tax-free threshold to 50 per cent of the minimum wage and index it to the minimum wage. The 30 per cent tax rate should apply to all income over the threshold(s). Family benefits should also be increased and indexed to the minimum wage.

The phase-out threshold should also be increased and indexed if it cannot be abolished. Together, these steps would reduce the cost of people moving from welfare to work and ensure that national wage increases were paid in full and not discounted by a loss of benefits.

If the job you want doesn’t pay enough to allow you to afford a nanny, then economic sense says either don’t take the job or do without the nanny.

Chris Curtis
Langwarrin, VIC



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