I woke up this morning to find that Peter Dutton, our Minister for Immigration, had been on the campaign trail informing the good people of Australia that asylum seekers are illiterate and innumerate and would languish on the dole and take Australian jobs, thus justifying, poorly, the incarceration of these disenfranchised and displaced people of our time.
The issue of asylum seekers has been, and continues to be, the political ping pong ball of the modern era. The fear mongering that has gone on since 1996 has been nothing short of incredulous. How much, though, of all this is true? Are these terrified asylum seekers truly that uneducated and going to rob us of our jobs, or cause our Centrelink system to collapse?
Ironically, in 2013, The Australian, a Murdoch owned paper that normally massages the Liberals no end, published an article highlighting the ABS-released statistics stating that around 75,000 students in schools are not meeting the minimum national requirements in reading and in Year 4, 1 in 4 children are not meeting the literacy rate for international standards. In 2010, our schools performed the worst out of all English speaking countries with 21 other countries having better literacy rates. That same report also estimated that 7.3 million Australians (yes, that is a third of all Australians, and around half the adult population) have problems with literacy.
On the website Better Beginnings, a website dedicated to literacy and numeracy in children, they confirm these statistics, breaking it down even further; 24% of 5 year old children starting school in Western Australia are developmentally vulnerable and cognitatively at risk.
They also cite that in 2010, the National Workforce Literacy Project found that 75% of employers in Australia were negatively impacted by low levels of literacy and numeracy in their employees, across the spectrum, though unsurprisingly labourers and process workers made up the majority of this figure at 45%.
Then, this article in 2013 revealed that, contrary to what Mr Dutton says, a PISA report revealed that migrant children consistently out-performed Australian born children in the literacy and numeracy stakes.
Pinning the political football of asylum seekers on the fear that they are illiterate and innumerate and will take our jobs is in itself an oxymoron. What employer is going to hire an illiterate and innumerate refugee? If they are indeed these things, surely they are not at risk of taking our jobs. Which then begs the question are they then going to cause our dole system to collapse?
Let’s look at that.
In 2014-2015, Australia took in 13,750 refugees, and since 1996, it’s refugee/asylum seeker intake has remained steady at around 12,000 to 13,000 per year. This represents around 0.05% of the Australian population.
Between 2006 and 2011, 14,215 asylum seekers arrived in Australia by boat. Again representing just 0.06% of the Australian population. It is important to note that over the same period 9,000 people arrived by boat in Malta, a country of just 423,000 people, compared to Australia’s 23 million.
This is the number that all this political power play is all about – a population of people who represent just 0.06% of our population, but who we are being told are about to threaten our way of life.
By contrast, in 2014-2015, Australia issued 190,000 migrant visas, and since 1945 7.5million people have settled in Australia from another country.
So, 0.06% of the population is seeking asylum and 0.8% arrive on a Migrant Visa. Doesn’t seem quite so scary now, does it?
The unemployment rate in March 2016 was 5.8%. In that same month employment increased by 26,100 (seasonally adjusted) and unemployment decreased by 7,300 (seasonally adjusted). As a country, currently, we have a higher GDP per capita than the USA. This is all indicates a good, healthy economy.
Looking at the Centrelink statistics, we can easily see that the greatest number of payments via Centrelink are not for those people who are unemployed, illiterate or innumerate, but in fact our elderly. People who have worked all their lives, paying taxes and contributing to society.
It has been said that settling asylum seekers in this country would cost tax payers in the region of $100 million per year, though this is really difficult to accurately determine. However, let’s just say for argument’s sake that this may be sort of true. The cost of detaining them off shore is said to be ten times more – an estimated $1.6 billion, though figures do vary from around $1.1 billion. And that $1.1+ billion pretty much pays the private company since we know that conditions on the offshore processing centres are worse than anyone can imagine – very little water, very little sanitation, squalid living conditions, no access to medicine or education.
Yes, our government is paying around $1.6 billion to detain the equivalent of 0.06% of the Australian population – money that could be spent increasing the employment rate, and educating our already established educationally challenged children.
Mr Dutton is truly misinformed (though not really) and through his public fear mongering is misinforming fellow Australians. There is no threat to our jobs, to our Centrelink system or our way of life by allowing these asylum seekers into our country, to live a life free of fear. The facts are clear to see, though the parties on the campaign trail would have you believe otherwise.
We go to vote on the 2nd July. These are things that are worth considering, don’t you think?
Until next time,