Campaigns to urge asylum seekers to avoid Australia have received an almost $40 million boost in the Abbott Government’s second budget.
A total of $39.9 million has been allocated over four years for “anti-people smuggling strategic communications campaigns”, both in Australia and overseas.
The funding comes amid cuts to the Refugee Council of Australia, which has had its annual funding of $140,000 axed.
The cuts will help fund $21 million over the coming financial year for the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme, supporting “non-illegal maritime arrivals”.
The government has also allocated:
- $389.6 million over two years to fund resettlement arrangements for refugees in Nauru, PNG and Cambodia
- $164.8 million over four years to upgrade border protection at airports, including the rollout of eGates, additional training for Australian Border Force officials
- $4.7 million in the coming financial year to station Australian Border Force agents in Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka
Increased use of the Australian Customs Vessel will be facilitated by $74.3 million in funding over five years. The funds will boost the use of the Ocean Shield from 180 days a year to 300 until 2018-19.
The government is due to make savings through changes to the migration agents registration system and the consolidation of the immigration detention network.
Treasurer Joe Hockey said “unnecessary detention centres” such as Phosphate Hill and Construction Camp on Christmas Island, as well as Blaydin Point in Darwin, would be closed – saving $554.5 million over five years.
According to budget documents, “this measure has been made possible by the Government’s effective policy of stopping the boats.”
The government will also save an estimated $1.8 million in departmental expenses by removing the need for lawyer migration agents to be registered under the migration agents’ regulatory scheme.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the Australian Border Force is due to commence operations from July 1.
“The Australian Border Force will be an agency focussed on protecting our borders with the ability to gather intelligence and swiftly deal with existing and emerging threats,” he said.
Mr Dutton said the government would also maintain the Special Humanitarian Program at 13,750 in 2016-17, before increasing to 16,250 and 18,750 over the next two financial years.
He said this year’s budget – which will also save $66 million by reducing charter flights between detention centres – would build on savings from the Abbott Government’s first budget.