The principle of ‘no advantage,’ is the latest weasel word in the Australian government’s continuing fight against asylum seekers.

Coined by the ‘expert panel’ of Angus Houston, Michael L’Estrange and Paris Aristotle, the vague, elastic and misleading ‘no advantage,’ principle essentially allows Chris Bowen, the Department of Immigration and the ALP to implement punitive policies on vulnerable people and get away with it, under the guise of ‘border protection.’

The expert panel of L’Estrange, Houston and Aristotle

While Australia’s borders have been largely secure since the Late Cretaceous period, when Gondwanaland disintegrated and the continent become an island, it has not stopped a generation of politicians channelling our collective dormant racism, to fear and persecute those who come by boat.

The ALP, not content with removing the entire continent of Australia from the migration zone, reinstituting offshore detention (not ‘processing’ – that is something you do to meat), denying refugees rights to family reunion, restricting asylum seekers income to 89% of poverty levels and raising the ire of Amnesty International, UNHCR and every other humanitarian organisation over its policy towards asylum seekers, is now seeking to further punish those who have done no wrong.

The latest weapon in the ‘no advantage,’ artillery, to be implemented in the coming weeks, will be the removal of work rights for Bridging Visa holders who arrived after the August 13 ‘cut off’ date.  Furthermore, even those asylum seekers who are found to be refugees will be denied work rights and remain on temporary visas, until it is deemed they have waited long enough to pass the rubbery ‘no advantage’ test.  Chris Bowen has set himself and the ALP up as the arbiter of how long refugees must wait to begin their lives again, simply because they arrived by boat.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen flanked by supporters of the ALP’s asylum seeker policies.

Meanwhile, in the Liberal corner, opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison is summoning the ghosts of policies past and will this week introduce a private members bill to exhume TPV’s, a visa which essentially states ‘yes, you are a refugee, but we will only offer you three years protection, in case the war ends in that time and we can send you back home – and by the way you cannot bring your family over for protection either.’  TPV’s were an internationally condemned and unnecessarily cruel policy of the Howard government and one of the first policies overturned by former PM Kevin Rudd.

Liberal leader Tony Abbott also announced on behalf of his party (and without consulting them) that the Coalition was withdrawing its promise of lifting Australia’s humanitarian intake to 20,000.  While it was not a surprising move, to invoke economics as the reason for his backflip Abbott has played on the ignorance of the Australian public’s knowledge of how expensive detention is.  Abbott’s claim that not accepting an extra 6,500 refugees per year will save the country $1.3 billion has been roundly criticised – and rightly so – as inaccurate.

Not to be ‘out-toughed,’ Abbott and co will be exhuming Howard’s TPV’s

What would save Australia that amount money (and more) would be ending the government’s contract with Serco, who along with G4S, manage the countries detention centres.  What would also save the country millions of dollars is allowing asylum seekers to work and pay tax, instead of withholding work rights and paying them 89% of Centrelink or introducing a ‘refugee work for welfare,’ as Tony Abbott also announced last week.  In close to ten years working with asylum seekers and refugees I have not met one who has made the journey to Australia simply to receive a welfare payment from Centrelink.

Serco, profiting from misery

The expert panel is said to be dismayed that their ‘no advantage’ principle is being misused.  Apparently the architects of ‘no advantage’ did not envisage asylum seekers languishing for years on Nauru and Manus Island for their cases to be heard, or being denied the right to work if they are released on the mainland and that denial continuing even after they have been found to be refugees.  However, if you recommend ‘the application of a ‘no advantage’ principle to ensure that no benefit is gained through circumventing regular migration arrangements,’ then any sympathy must be offered cautiously, if at all.

The ‘no advantage’ living conditions for asylum seekers on Nauru