Billions in surplus yet breadcrumbs for compassion in Federal Budget


Despite some positives, what was announced in Canberra last night blatantly fails to address the unprecedented demand charities such as ASRC are seeing from people seeking asylum for emergency food support, crisis housing and urgent medical care.

Labor’s budget for “every Australian” doesn’t deliver for people seeking asylum
Labor has continued the Morrison Government’s legacy of drastic cuts to social support for people seeking asylum, with a budget decrease of 54% for 2024-2025. After a massive $21 million underspend in 2023-2024, funding will drop to just $17 million for ‘asylum seeker support’, down 95% from $300 million in 2015-2016.

No increase to humanitarian intake
The ALP won the election with a policy of increasing the humanitarian intake to 27,000 places per year as well as an additional 5,000 places for community sponsorship. However, in this budget there have been no changes to historically low levels of refugee intake.

Places will remain at 20,000 for 2024-2025 and with Australia still failing to adequately respond to its global responsibility, and the number of people displaced globally continuing to rise, increasing the humanitarian intake should not be delayed any longer.

Half a billion on offshore detention while people forced to PNG starve
The Government poured over half a billion dollars into ‘offshore management’ in 2023-2024 and a leviathan $604.4 million is set aside for 2024-2025. Despite paying approximately $600,000 per person to detain an estimated 100 people on Nauru, health services offshore remain substandard with no current provision for trauma-informed counselling and specialist support.

The Government also yielded to Coalition pressure, increasing funding for Australian Border Forces’ on-water response and aerial surveillance capabilities by $71.2 million, taking the total to over $2 billion on border enforcement and management.

Left behind in Labor’s offshore and border spending blitz are 50 people and their families – including  approximately 36 children – who remain abandoned in Papua New Guinea by the Australian Government, barely surviving without food and access to financial aid. Humanitarian support for the men and their families was cut off amid allegations of corruption and claims the Albanese Government had not paid its bills to providers on the ground in Port Moresby

Failed by Fast Track and successive Governments
The Albanese Government promised to provide permanent visas for refugees and people seeking asylum subjected to damaging temporary visas and an unfair visa processing system as a key part of its election commitment. However, 7500 people failed by the flawed Fast Track system have been overlooked by Labor once again – with no pathway to permanency and no end to years of uncertainty provided in this year’s Budget.

Widespread exclusion from social supports continue but some positive changes 
Widespread exclusion of people seeking asylum from mainstream social supports such as Medicare, JobSeeker and the Child Care Subsidy continues in this Federal Budget, along with denying people the right to work and access higher education.

However, ASRC welcomes the targeted funding which will provide some support to people from Palestine and Israel, including $0.9 million over two years to extend Medicare eligibility for Bridging Visa E holders and $2 million to Red Cross for emergency financial assistance for recent arrivals.

$1.9 million will also be provided over five years from 2023–24 to extend access to Medicare for Ukrainians and immediate family members who hold a Bridging visa E.

The ASRC is also pleased to see the extension and expansion of the Escaping Violence Payment and the Temporary Visa Holders Experiencing Violence Pilot trials to 30 June 2025. This is supported by continued legal assistance for temporary visa holders leaving violence through  $16.5 million over five years from 2023–24, and a further $6.1 million allocated for continued specialised support for visa holders experiencing domestic and family violence over four years from 2024–25.

ASRC’s refugee sector partners also welcome the announcement of $120.9 million to improve refugee settlement services and social outcomes over five years from 2023-24.

Targeted funding for the roll-out of the new Administrative Tribunal
ASRC welcomes the Albanese Government’s announcement $854.3 million will be spent over four years for the roll-out and sustainable operation of the anticipated new Administrative Review Tribunal. The new tribunal will replace the defective Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) and flawed Fast Track process which have resulted in thousands of people seeking asylum receiving unfair and unjust outcomes.

Of particular note in the funding package is $115.6 million designated for the establishment of two new migration hubs dedicated to hearing protection and migration matters.

Jana Favero, ASRC’s Head of Systemic Change
“This year’s budget will create more limbo, despair and destitution for the people ASRC serves. What was announced in Canberra last night is a far cry from what we are witnessing on the ground in Footscray and Dandenong. It’s a budget bereft of compassion, fairness or hope for families, children, women, and men seeking our protection.

“At the same time as charities are inundated and seeking greater investment in frontline services, Labor is happy to pay $600,000 per person to hold people on Nauru. Where is the sense and compassion in that? It’s totally out of step with the poverty and destitution facing people seeking asylum.”

Sobia Shah, Founder of the Professional Migrant Women’s Network:
“Today, I will have to meet with students on Bridging Visa who were feeling hope about this Budget. But now, they will know they have been excluded from their community and are stuck in limbo, not able to access higher education or work.  They will ask me: ‘How can we survive? Why is there no end date to this limbo we must live in?’”

“Again, we have seen the exclusion of people seeking asylum from the child care subsidy. There are parents who could better contribute to their communities and fill the gaps in our workforce if they could access this support. But it is not just parents and community who lose by this exclusion, it is children. Children will miss out on important learning and the potential for development and wellbeing issues to be picked up before school is also now not possible.

“Additionally, there are onshore asylum seekers who have been in this country for more than a decade, with children born here who are now citizens, yet they still find themselves in a state of uncertainty.”

Heidi Abdel-Raouf, ASRC’s Detention Policy Caseworker
“Tonight, the Albanese Government has talked about its responsible economic management, yet it continues to abandon and abdicate responsibility for 50 refugees in PNG who sought safety in Australia nearly 11 years ago.

“It  has been seven months since the men and their families were cut off from all support in PNG including financial assistance, food, medical care, and threatened with eviction, amid allegations of corruption and claims this Government has not paid its Bills to service providers on the ground in Port Moresby.

“The only thing keeping the men and their families alive right now  is the small amount given through donations by already-stretched charities and individuals giving what little they can. Lives are at risk unless this Government urgently evacuates people to safety in Australia while their resettlement is prioritised.”


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