I use this blog as a soap box to preach (ahem... to talk :-) about subjects that interest me.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


The members of Mensa Australia exchange ideas via a mailing list.

On May 1st, one of the members posted the following message, under the heading “cost-benefit of refugees”:

To an Economist, cost and benefit is everything.

I am under no doubt that the benefits of the Royal wedding clearly outweigh the costs.

There is another Government made decision that I believe is costing the Australian Taxpayers far more than has yet been revealed.
The decision by the Rudd Government to scrap temporary visas has resulted in an additional 3,000 illegal immigrants arriving at our processing centres each year.
How much extra has this single decision cost Australian taxpayers?

Let's look at the costs: (Assume illegal/refugee stays in detention for four years)
Basic legal costs per refugee applicant: $200,000
Housing at Christmas Island: $400 million per year, so $150,000 per refugee for the four years.
Welfare payments: $50,000 per year = $200,000
Offshore Management $156 million per year. $50,000 per refugee.
Christmas Island infrastructure improvements: $120 million over 4 years: $10,000 per refugee
Additional patrolling costs: $100 million over 4 years. $10,000 per refugee
Regional costs to assist handling refugees coming here: $33 million per year. $10,000 per refugee

Each additional refugee will cost us around $630,000 over the period of his stay in detention. With an extra 3000 refugees coming in as a result of that policy, that is costing taxpayers and additional $2 billion per year.
Is this where you want your taxes to go, or can you see better ways to utilize your money?

The refugee program in total (13,500 per year) could well be costing four times this amount, particularly when you factor in the low employment skills and high crime rates of the people coming in here.

On May 3rd, the former State Representative for the Australian Capital Territory replied with the following (I took the liberty of correcting a couple of trivial typos and removing the name of the member who posted the original message). Note that I have interspersed the comments provide by the original member in a subsequent message.

I believe there is a lot of unwarranted bias here.
I too am an economist, but I believe that there is more to life than cost-benefit analysis.
This concept was very popular in the 60s especially, and is the basis of many decisions in our economy.
But..... it is not always appropriate.
Apart from the question whether 's calculations [...] are an accurate reflection of what it costs our government to admit refugees;
and apart from the fact that fails to introduce even one benefit (over a 40-50 year period of residency in Australia?),
is blaming the refugees. Why.....

I am not blaming the refugees. I blame the decision makers who are inviting people here who have little hope of fitting in. Refugees are acting in their own best interests. They look for the easiest targets in first world countries and exploit any loophole to get here and to stay here.

If the Western alliance of which we are a member, had not started fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and before that the English meddling in the Middle East, there would not be many refugees from these countries.
Our government is not only complicit (even if inherited from previous governments) in the reasons refugees come here thru our military actions, but our trade practices too influence the situation of people living in these countries. And while some come for economic reasons, most are trying to escape violence.
Their countries have cultures of violence that sometimes date back hundreds of years.
What we need to do, is not locking them up for years till ASIO has finally figured out that they cannot find anything against a certain refugee, we need to put these people in schools.
The refugee camps need to become schools where we teach them how to live in a modern western society. Teach them not only our language, but our laws, customs, and culture.
And indoctrinate them concerning our abhorrence of the use of arms. Make sure they understand that peace and non-violence is our way of life.
This may not be foolproof, but it should make them fit into our society a lot easier.

Have you tried teaching Lebanese in schools? About half of them are hyperactive and have no respect for authority. I would dread trying to contain in a classroom someone who has been roaming around with an AK47 eliminating anyone who crossed his path.

After all, how can we expect an 18-yr old, who grew up in a desert surrounded by marauders, to fit in with the peaceful side of Australian Society if we keep them incarcerated in a remote, semi-violent environment for a year or more before we let them loose in our cities?

This would probably increase 's “cost” side of the equation. But the Benefits side would increase enormously.

In my twenty years of teaching, I learned that the cast is set before the child enters Primary School. Trouble makers in grade one are trouble makers all the way through. One year of deportment classes will have zero impact I am afraid. Wouldn't you prefer to see the billions of dollars we spend on assimilating refugees in Australia spent to the benefit of hundreds of thousands of people in countries of need rather than the few thousand here who have jumped the queues?

At this point, I felt I couldn’t let it rest, and posted the following message:

Money, money, money...

I seriously question the current policy of keeping boat people interned for years. It is inhumane and makes no sense. People who manage to obtain a passport and come to Australia by plane are not forced into a camp. But some people are not so lucky. To escape their place of birth, they feel forced to risk the life of their children and place themselves in the hands of unscrupulous smugglers. Why should we treat these two groups of refugees so differently? Why can refugees who come by air freely move in our society while boat people cannot? As I said, it doesn't make any sense. Immigration and ASIO should process and check out boat people exactly as they do with 'plane people'.

AND THERE IS NO QUEUE! There are just desperate people coming into our country however they can. Or should we think that some people prefer to risk their life on rickety boats and endure years of confinement rather than fly in on a commercial jet? Come on... If anything, from a humane point of view, it would make sense to process the boat people more swiftly than those who come by plane. And a passage on a boat easily costs more than an economy-class aeroplane ticket. That alone should tell you how desperate some of these people are.

Modern economy ignores everything it cannot put a price on. That leads to apparently logical but in reality inhumane conclusions. Hitler's final solution was logical when seen from the perspective of Nazi-Germany racism; forced repatriation of Chinese was logical in the context of the white-Australia policy; and the slogan 'stop the boats' is logical in a context of an uncaring political party that manipulates fears in the less educated among us.

To be honest, I only care about the money spent on boat people because, and I agree with , we should invest it in educating them rather than wasting it on keeping them locked up.

Besides, if everybody in this country only focussed on money, we couldn't function as a society. That is, if all the volunteers and carers that supplement our 'official' welfare expected to be paid for their work, we would become a ruthless and uncaring society. This goes a long way to prove that we shouldn't look at money as the only thing that matters.

There might be further postings on this subject, but I felt that many non-Mensans would be interested in confirming that a high-IQ has nothing to do with being a humane and caring person.

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