Migrant and Indigenous reaction to federal budget


There has been a mixed reaction to the federal budget from migrant and Indigenous community organisations.

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

Budget allocations show the government has opted to neither change Australia's current general immigration level, nor the number of places set aside under the refugee and humanitarian program.

Migrant community groups have welcomed additional funding for health and education programs, saying some of the extra funds will be specifically targeted at Australians from a non English speaking background.

However some Indigenous organisations are particularly critical of government plans to cut funding to the representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia has welcomed the government's decision to maintain the country's permanent migration program at 190,000 places and its humanitarian intake at 20,000.

One budget measure is a doubling in the cost of a 457 temporary skilled migrant visa, to $900.

FECCA chairman Pino Migliorino believes the government should carefully consider where it should direct that additional revenue within the Immigration Department budget.

"And in fact what will be a very interesting question will be what will be the use of that money. I think what might be an appropriate use of that extra revenue is to start building settlement services for both the spouses and the children of those 457 visa holders who will be hear for long periods of up to four years or not more," he says.

Pino Migliorino says he believes migrant communities will particularly benefit from the government's $10 billion school reforms, with some funding targeted specifically at students whose first language is not English.

And he has also welcomed the government's $20 million in extra funding for SBS, saying this will help multicultural broadcasting in a highly competitive media environment.

Some refugee advocates have been more critical of the budget, particularly over the rising level of funding spent on immigration detention facilities.

The government expects asylum seeker management costs to blow out by $3.2 billion over the next four years.

Campaign co-ordinator at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Pamela Curr, believes the processing of asylum claims on Nauru and on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea is proving to be too costly.

"It costs one million dollars per person per year- that's the current rate to detain people on Nauru and Manus Island. It makes no sense. What would create a stronger, fairer and smarter Australia is to accept the asylum seekers and process them from within the community and allow them the right to work at the same time," she says.

Some Indigenous groups have been particularly critical of the government's decision to cut funding to a representative body which it created in 2010.

The government has halved its funding allocation to the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, providing $5 million a year for three years from 2014-15.

The legal director at the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, Michael Mansell, believes the Congress has never been given the support it has needed.

"It was in its teething (early) stages and it was always going to struggle. But of course the real problem is that it wasn't made clear whether it was to be an advisory body to the Commonwealth government or whether it was to be another ATSIC (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission). The problem was that the Commonwealth failed to give it the powers that would enable it to lead the Aboriginal community and be critical of the Australian government," he says.

Another Indigenous organisation is less critical of the budget.

The National Aboriginal and Community Controlled Health Organisation has welcomed the extra $777 million in funding towards a new Close the Gap partnership over three years.

However the organisation's Chief Executive Officer, Lisa Briggs, says questions remain over exactly where that money will be spent.

She also questions whether there will be adequate cooperation between the Commonwealth and the states and territories to implement the partnership.

"The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health plan hasn't been finalised yet. We're still yet to see the devil in the detail and what that actual funding commitment will look like. And it is really important that we know sooner rather than later what that detail actually looks like to ensure that the continued efforts that have currently been built up around Close the Gap to get health gains, stay that way," she says.

Watch: NITV political correspondent Jeremy Geia with a breakdown of some of the funding allocated to Indigenous Australians in the federal budget.

Source: SBS