Govt cuts funding to Australia's Refugee Council
The Australian Government cuts funding to the country's Refugee Council, despite commitments made in the Budget.
The Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has axed more than half a million dollars of funding for Australia's peak refugee body over the next three years.
It is a reduction of 129,000 US dollars for the coming year and similar allocations for the following two years.
The minister made the cut despite the funding being allocated in last month's budget.
The Refugee Council's Paul Power told Don Wiseman the decision was communicated by telephone.
PAUL POWER: The surprising aspect of it was that all of the information that electors in Australia are given is that the Federal Government goes through the budget line by line, detail by detail and whatever appears in the budget represents the view of the government in terms of its spending for the coming year. What I don't understand is if the Immigration Minister did not want us to receive funding why it was that in the budget that he's responsible for, this particular item of expenditure was allowed for that he saw fit to overturn it in a fortnight. I suppose there's questions in my mind of how thorough the budget planning process really is if it was never his intention to continue this funding and yet it still remained part of the formal budget papers.
DON WISEMAN: You don't think there's a vindictive element to this?
PP: Well, certainly some of our member organisations, which I must say are quite conservative, cautious organisations, feel that an organisation like ours is regarded as giving unwelcome feedback where we disagree with government policy. I must also stress that there are plenty of areas where our organisation and network and the Australian government are in agreement. Particularly, the traditional refugee resettlement programme is quite controversial in Australia and our organisation and network worked very positively with the Australian government on these issues. It's in the area of the treatment of people who come to Australia to seek asylum where the community sector and the government have much more divergent views. And our responsibility as always is to speak plainly about those issues. Not exaggerating but not gilding the lily when the community sector believes government policy directions are wrong. Some parties in government can tolerate better than others.
DW: Will it hurt your work?
PP: We're determined to make sure that it doesn't. But, I'd be lying if I said that having $140,000 removed four to five weeks before the start of a new financial year wouldn't hurt us. But, what we're getting now is an amazing response from Australians and really our future as an organisation relies in actually being able to more effectively marshall support from Australians, of whom there are millions who are deeply upset about the direction of policy and would like to see a much more common sense and level headed and human set of policies. I suspect and hope and am reasonably confident that over the next few months we will have built that support to a point where we'll be able to replace this funding. The irony for the Australian government is if that happens we'll come out of it a financially stronger and probably organisationally stronger agency.
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