TONY Abbott is set to up the ante on asylum seeker policy by promising to make the thousands of people soon to be released into the community work for their limited welfare payments.
If not, they could lose the payments, have them suspended, or possibly be put back in detention.
Based on the current rate at which people are arriving by boat, the policy has the potential to generate a low-paid labour force of about 20,000 people.
Mr Abbott is developing plans for a mutual obligation scheme, similar to work-for-the-dole, after attacking Labor’s latest policy change on refugees.
Unable to send to Nauru or Manus Island the thousands who continue to arrive by boat, the government will release them into the community but under the same no-advantage conditions as if they were on one of the Pacific islands.
These conditions are designed to discourage people from getting on boats by making them wait as long for permanent residency – up to five years – as if they had stayed in the camp from which they set out.
In the interim, they will be given bridging visas, which forbid them to work and forbid family reunions. They will receive about $435 a fortnight in welfare payments – 89 per cent of the lowest Centrelink payment.
Mr Abbott is set to announce that a Coalition government would subject working-age holders of bridging visas to mutual obligation requirements similar to work-for-the-dole.
”The difficulty with [the government’s] announcement – that people coming to Australia illegally by boat will be put on temporary bridging visas with access to welfare before more or less automatically getting permanent residency – is that it means that these people will get Australian citizenship with the worst possible preparation,” Mr Abbott said.
”Five years on welfare, for life in Australia.”
Coalition sources said the details of the policy were still being finalised but under options being considered, if asylum seekers refused to abide by the obligations placed on them, they would lose the welfare payments and face other penalties, including being placed in detention.
Since the government announced the Pacific solution on August 13, about 7600 people have arrived by boat and all arrivals from that date are subject to the no-advantage clause.
Mr Abbott will promise that if elected, he will reintroduce temporary protection visas, which will be given to every person who arrives by boat after the election.
But the thousands on Labor’s bridging visas – which a Coalition government would ”inherit” – would be subject to the mutual obligations conditions until those visas expired.
Those put on temporary protection visas would face similar restrictions but may be able to work, as they were able to do so under the Howard government.
Labor’s latest policy change has caused consternation in the Left faction. Fairfax Media understands the Left faction conveners will hold a phone hook-up before Parliament resumes on Monday to discuss their displeasure both with the latest policy and the fact that it was not run past the caucus.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.