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Let’s buy an island

Nauru (image by

Nauru (image by

For the amount of money we are spending keeping asylum seekers away we could buy them a country and build luxury resorts for them to live in.

According to the United Nations, in 2012 there were 60 countries in the world whose annual GDP was less than $10 billion. Nauru came 192 out of 193 with a GDP of $121 million. The CIA World Fact Book has them last with “n/a” next to their name. But when we look on a per capita basis, Nauru is rolling in money compared to PNG and our newest potential gaoler, Cambodia.

Per capita GDP in Nauru is $12,022 (though if you added in the people in detention camps that would drop significantly). No wonder they sent the families and unaccompanied minors there.

PNG is not so lucky, ranked at 136 out of 194 countries, with $2,187 per person. But they too are well in front of Cambodia who is ranked at 162 with a per capita GDP of $944.

By comparison, Australia’s GDP is over $1.5 trillion, or about $70,000 per person, but apparently these other countries are better able to handle our refugee problem.

It seems we are searching out the poorest countries in the world and setting our spin doctors onto them to convince them that it will be profitable for them to go into the detention camp business. No doubt we give them some foreign aid, and that is a good thing, but they also have expectations of employment for their own people and a boost to local businesses and the economy.

This leads to problems as we have untrained locals acting as security guards in very tense and difficult situations. We also have very poor local communities seeing asylum seekers housed and fed and given free medical services. Little business goes their way because supplies are flown in so resentment spreads. We have desperate people locked up inside, angry local people outside, and untrained local guards between them. The whole situation is a breeding ground for disaster.

And how much is it costing us to create this purgatory which can only descend into hell?

It’s hard to be accurate about this so let’s look at what we DO know.

The Coalition have budgeted $9.5 billion over the next three to four years for offshore detention camps. This amount is predicated on the assumption that arrivals will fall significantly.

Analysis of budget and immigration data suggests that, if the newly expanded refugee centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea operate continuously at full capacity, and if the average asylum seeker’s claim is processed in 143 days (a figure cited previously), the cost to Australian taxpayers per detainee will be about $220,000. However, if the current torrent of refugees slows to 5200 arrivals a year, then the average cost per asylum seeker will rise to about $457,000.

The estimates exclude additional expenses of the offshore scheme, such as the costs of customs and naval operations.

The Refugee Council says processing an asylum claim offshore costs about five times what it does in Australia.

We are also planning on spending $3 billion for seven giant unmanned drones

On-water operations are not only secret, they are very expensive.

Two frigates ($207,000/day each), seven patrol boats ($40,000/day each) and numerous Customs vessels (unknown cost – let’s say $56,000/day total). That makes $750,000 per day or almost $275 million for the year. I realise they may not all patrol every day but throw in $2 million to refurbish the patrol boats we gifted to Sri Lanka and a few $70,000 life rafts and other such sundries (like poor Angus Campbell’s airfares) and the estimate shows we are talking serious money coming out of our defence budget.

The budget also set aside $1.1 million for the role of Special Envoy over two years. That role was given to Jim Molan who has been notable for his absence since the election. Considering the state of affairs one would have thought our Special Envoy, the architect of the tow-back policy, would have been in there sorting this mess out.

The list of related expenses is endless. Flights backwards and forwards by Bishop, Morrison, Abbott, and their entourages, plus various other politicians visiting detention camps, including Tanya Plibersek and Sarah Hansen-Young, and the exorbitant travelling allowances that accompany overseas travel, would all quickly add up.

Add the cost of the Human Rights Commission inquiry into children in detention, the independent inquiry into the violence on Manus Island, the investigation into possible abuse by naval personnel, reports by Amnesty International and various other groups, and the immigration and coronial inquiries into the deaths of asylum seekers whether in their attempt to get to safety, or by their own hand when all hope was lost, or now by the hand of those paid to protect them.

Administrative costs, advertising, printing, hundreds of public servants, all devoted to keeping asylum seekers away.

There has been recent talk of a “wage explosion” which the statistics showed was a load of hogwash. But not so for the military top brass of whom there are many.

In Labor’s last budget, military spending increased across all departments. The largest cost blowouts will occur in wages and salaries and supplier costs.

The joint office of the Chief of Defence, General David Hurley and Defence Secretary Dennis Richardson will receive a $22 million boost to $164 million for next year.

The wages bill for their “small personal offices” and attached agencies tasked to “drive” strategic reforms will rise by $3 million and the supplier bill will balloon by $18.5 million.

The combined military wages bill across the three services will climb by an impressive $274 million. Senior officer (Lieutenant Colonel and above) numbers are set to expand by 59 positions and the number of “star” ranked officers in the Army will grow by two to add to the highest number of generals in the western world.

The total number of star ranked officers in the Australian Defence Force will grow to 190 to manage a force of 58,000 troops or one for every 305 people in uniform.

The ratio of generals to troops is well above countries such as the USA, Britain and Israel and according to one insider is approaching the levels in Thailand, a force that has been ridiculed by Australian officers for being “top heavy”.

The ranks of senior public servants have also expanded dramatically in recent years with several three-star equivalent deputy secretaries doing the job of one just a few years ago.

In 2010, the director of Strategic and Defence Studies at the Australian National University and former senior defence official, Hugh White, said the expansion of the general’s club reflected an institutional weakness within defence.

“There is no policy or objective reason for the rank structure,” Professor White said.

Strategic analyst and defence budget expert with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Mark Thompson, said there were two explanations for the blow-out in senior ranks: The high operational tempo of the force and the fact that Defence had been swimming in money for years.

“That makes it easy for them to promote someone,” Mr Thompson said.

I don’t have today’s figures but, in 2010, Lieutenant Generals were paid between $242,000 and $250,000 a year, Major Generals $189,000 to $208,000 and Brigadiers between $127,000 and $184,000.

People are rightly concerned about the cost to the nation of our approach to the asylum seeker problem but what they must realise is it’s keeping them out that is costing us a fortune.

We have an immigration target of about 200,000. If we made 50,000 of those positions for refugees and, after health and identity checks were carried out, gave them visas that allow them to live and work in the community whilst their claim is processed, we would save ourselves a fortune. Those who found jobs would be paying taxes. Those on welfare would be spending the dollars in the community. Their children could be attending schools and we could provide adult education making jobs for our teachers, social workers and support groups, and training a new workforce.

If the human rights abuses don’t trouble you, if the vilification from the rest of the world doesn’t trouble you, at least think of the cash.

With that sort of money we could buy a country and build resorts to live in.

Update: “The Abbott government has spent $2.5 million on lifeboats to send asylum seekers intercepted at sea back to Indonesia.
The figure, revealed in letters tabled in the Senate by Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash, indicates the gov…ernment is paying more than $200,000 per lifeboat, each of which is understood to be used only once.”



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  1. Olivia Manor

    And yet Australia is supposed to be bankrupt!

  2. mars08

    With that sort of money we could buy a country and build resorts to live in.

    What? That’s just ridiculous! I mean…. those illegals already get new Playstations, iPhones, boob jobs, and free housing and from the government!!! Damn them!!!!!

  3. bobrafto

    The budget also set aside $1.1 million for the role of Special Envoy over two years. That role was given to Jim Molan who has been notable for his absence since the election. Considering the state of affairs one would have thought our Special Envoy, the architect of the tow-back policy, would have been in there sorting this mess out.

    Sorting this mess out?

    More like rorting this mess out.

  4. scotchmistery

    Who the is John Molan? He doesn’t even appear in Wikipedia.

    Have to fix that right up.

    Can we have a list of jobs he may have had, people he may have slept with, at which school, whether he was a colleague of either the mad monk or the abuser Morrison so we can set him up a wiki page. Poor dear probably feels all left out.

  5. rangermike1

    Kaye Lee, this (so called) Govt. is doing the right thing. They are about to self destruct due to their Lying and cheating. I am disgusted in the way this Govt. performs. Have a look at their front bench, Abbott, Hockey, Mincing poodle Pyne, George the Branded and Scott (off the Planet) Morrison. Not a Great look. Karma shall return.

  6. Anomander

    Add onto this the cost of a lifetime of therapy and treatment for mental anguish and anxiety for those refugees held in unlawful and inhumane detention for years, because while we hold them these people are under our care.

    Stop the stupidity. Stop the rorts. Stop the waste.

  7. Betty Candy

    You forgot to mention that Abbott & Morrison et al are now qualified “People Smugglers”.
    Odd that his hasn’t been mentioned in the mainstream press. O r not..

  8. Graeme Rust

    but abbortt the idiot and morrison the murderer said the boats had stopped ?? are they lying AGAIN ?????

  9. Dissenter

    I completely agree that it is time that we simply accepted refugees into Australia.THE costs are more than ridiculous not too.
    FInancially we could buy each one of them a house in Campbelltown or wollongong nsw and pay their pension for 10 years out of the 570,000 we spend on each of them a year.

    2. THE other cost. The loss of life and the burden of responsibilty and grief on Australians for atrocities committed in our names outweighs even the financial costs.

    Australians have to transform their thinking to one of acceptance and NOT hate and we will become a richer country for it.

    Most asylum seekers will make a life that is productive here. They will work and contribute and they will meld into the population of tomorrow.

    Australia is a country of refugees from 1788 onwards. They came by sea and they toiled and built the nation we have today. These refugees will contribute in the same way. Work family children and building the growth in numbers and GDP we need.

  10. Dissenter

    The proliferation of the generals and its inbalance within the scope of the overall military has ME questioning why?
    Is this to be a real FASCIST regime reinforced by military?

  11. Kaye Lee

    The light the dark vigil last night was inspiring. The church is also helping and we must help them. The Anglican Church at Gosford is gaining a huge following because the minister advocates decency, tolerance, compassion and support. He is not afraid to speak out and to stand up. Regardless of your views about religion, the many church groups and individuals are uniting to voice their horror at this depravity.

  12. Rod Bakes

    That explanation /re officer allocations ,explains a lot !! I believe those appointed , are grossly under qualified ,incompetent & a disgrace to our forces !!

  13. fryaduck

    @Dissenter, nah the imbalance of the generals only means they refuse to retire as there are no jobs.

  14. passum2013

    Problem solved we don’t need to buy an island let the mining giants that want to dump filling on the Great barrier reef take it to a point in the ocean where they can create a island . Then as a point of good will for allowing this to happen they must contain this material so as development can take place on it. Australians Being Generous as we are for those in need Would build a Settlement and a tourism Site for the Refugees to work at and eventually run for income. The excess workers could then be Employed in The Mining Sector. Making every one happy and keeping them busy by being employed.

  15. Don

    Well he is now in wikipedia, so they have fixed that up for you, but to see why he got the appointment here is why “Molan has been associated with the Liberal Party of Australia, helping to launch the Liberal opposition party’s military-led border protection campaign in the lead up to the 2013 general election in Brisbane on 25 July 2013.[12] Molan has been an outspoken critic of the Australian Labor Party’s management of Defence matters.[13] The Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith described Molan as ‘partisan’ and a “Liberal Party activist”.[14]” straight out of wikipedia, another job for the Lieberal boys club

  16. Matters Not

    While I share the sentiments expressed, the issue of ‘illegal immigrants’ is still a political winner for Abbott et al. The ALP is hopelessly compromised because after all they designed the Manus solution and resurrected Nauru.

    And now Morrison’s latest inquiry will again sheet home allegations of administrative incompetence to the ALP, just as they are doing with the home insulation programme.

    Let there be no mistake, what we are talking about here is a ‘wicked problem’ or ‘a Social Mess’. While these ‘concepts’ can never be defined absolutely, in terms of ‘necessary’ and ‘sufficient’ conditions Wiki provides some useful insights.

    used in social planning to describe a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize. The term “wicked” is used to denote resistance to resolution, rather than evil. Moreover, because of complex interdependencies, the effort to solve one aspect of a wicked problem may reveal or create other problems

  17. mars08

    And now Morrison’s latest inquiry will again sheet home allegations of administrative incompetence to the ALP…

    EXACTLY. Obviously the ALP are not going to disown their creation. Instead their aim is to pursue Morrison for his mistruths about the incident and his poor management. An inquiry will find that Labor failed in it’s implementation of it’s scheme and was lax in it’s oversight.

    Meanwhile the monstrous machine will keep on running…

  18. Matters Not

    the ALP are not going to disown their creation

    Indeed! In fact they are wearing it as a ‘badge of honour’. In summary: “We (the ALP) won the race to the bottom. And we are very proud of same.” Or to put it another way: “We can be even more inhumane that the LNP. And more importantly the proof is now part of the historical record”

    Talk about dumb. Never mind the morality or the political stupidity of giving oxygen to an ‘issue’ the punters don’t care about. As for:

    Meanwhile the monstrous machine will keep on running

    But for how long? PNG is almost a ‘failed state’. The local political PNG environment is very, very unstable and particularly so in Manus. There are time bombs in these arrangements, created by Rudd, but have to be ‘managed’ by the current government, and given how it mismanaged the phone taps in Indonesia, their record is less than promising.

  19. charybds

    I think we have this whole thing backwards .. If you can’t beat them join them.
    The plan seems to be to sell Australia .. the problem is very few will benefit under the current trickle scheme.
    So I propose we just put the whole show up for auction starting at ..say … 20mil x 20 mil (about 40 trillion)
    divide it equally and we can all go and live like kings anyplace we choose (of course the average wealth of Australians would lead to incredible prices in here).Perhaps Monaco or Tahiti are your style?
    For me I think a sailing life would satisfy ..

    The whole government problem would evaporate instantly, China (most likely) would get the resources it desires, and the rest of us would be the new rich and we could go and be our usual offensive loud selves but with the benefit of wealth to excuse us.

    It’s win – win .. .. Just sayin’


  20. Paul

    On ABC news Finance report last night 24/2/14 Alan Kohler was talking about the new security company for Manus Island, its costing us $2million dollars a day, and thats just one security company at just one detention centre.

  21. diannaart

    There’s a popular expression I have always found somewhat oxymoronic:

    Money talks, bullshit walks.

    Seems to me the saying ought to go something like this (sorry for lack of eloquency:

    Money says “jump”, bullshit asks “how high?”.

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