Christmas Island: The $185 million 'unhinged stunt'

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Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons

A few short weeks after announcing it would reopen Christmas Island Detention Centre, the Government will now “save” around $1 billion by closing it again.

To date, not one asylum seeker has been sent there and this little exercise will still cost taxpayers in the vicinity of $185.2 million. But what's $185 million between friends and Newstart recipients?

That the Morrison Government would prefer not to deal with asylum seekers is certainly no surprise. That it intends to save over $1 billion in the next financial year from money already allocated to deal with them, however, is surprising, since it reveals the extent to which the Government is prepared to stoop to score political points.


Shadow Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Shayne Neumann told IA:

Scott Morrison blatantly lied about the cost of Christmas Island when he said it would cost $1.4 billion and has wasted millions of taxpayers’ dollars on his unhinged stunt.


This is proof Morrison is running a desperate and shrill scare campaign and is willing to lie to the Australian public. He should be ashamed of himself.

Let’s set aside for the moment that the Government is still in deficit by $4.1 billion this financial year and that, as Dave Donovan pointed out,

'... there is every reason to suppose the budget will not return to surplus next year under a re-elected Coalition Government.'

Back in February, in an elaborate and highly publicised attempt to counter what it keeps referring to as “Labor’s” Medevac Bill, the Prime Minister announced that he would be reopening the Christmas Island Detention Centre. This was needed, he informed us, to house all the “dangerous” asylum seekers, requiring urgent medical treatment, not available on Manus Island and Nauru.


At the time, Finance Minister Matthias Cormann – who took the farce even further by giving Labor Leader Bill Shorten sole credit for the Bill – was busy whipping up a frenzy of fear and division:

“Under Bill Shorten’s Bill, rapists, murderers and paedophiles would still get a free pass into this country.”

But, let us also set aside Cormann’s obsession with Shorten and remember that this claim is completely unfounded – if not downright deceitful – since the legislation does not apply to new asylum seekers and the Government has been unable to produce even one murderous person or sexual deviant lurking among the poor forgotten people languishing on Australia’s offshore gulags, despite many opportunities since.

Mathias Cormann was quite pleased with the “saving” the Government managed to find.

 According to SBS:

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the Coalition was counting on winning the election and shutting the centre to save $1.2 billion.


"Should we be successful we will reverse that legislation, which means we will be able to close Christmas Island again, as we have closed Christmas Island before," Senator Cormann told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.


Unlike Howard’s Tampa affair and Abbott’s "Stop the Boats" campaign, people don’t seem to have bought this particular little scare campaign. This does not mean, of course, that the Government won’t give it their best shot, come election time — particularly if the magic back in the black Budget fails to get enough traction to reverse the never-ending disastrous polls, which continue to plague it.

It is believed only one person has been transferred to Australia for treatment under the Medevac Bill so far; as yet, no evidence has been released by the Government as to whether that person may also be a dangerous criminal.

At the same time, additional funds have been allocated to Home Affairs and the Defence Department. (Perhaps that asylum seeker had murderous intentions after all.)

To recap, the Morrison Government – after jumping up and down about sex offenders and assorted psychopaths and fighting tooth and nail to prevent asylum seekers coming to Australia for medical assistance – decided to allocate $1.2 billion to reopen the detention facility on Christmas Island. Six weeks later, after spending $185 million on this exercise, without having shipped a single person to the facility, the Morrison Government is pleased to announce it will “save” $1 billion dollars by closing it again.

This editorial was originally published as part of the Independent Australia weekly newsletter. These editorials are usually only available to subscribers and may be read online in the IA members only area.

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You can follow executive editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter at @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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