On 2 August 2013, the Australian Government released its economic statement, updating the 2013-14 Federal Budget to incorporate expense and capital measures since May. Several changes were made to policies and programs related to asylum seekers and refugees.
The Government expects offshore asylum seeker management costs to be $351 million higher in 2013- 14 than was estimated in the 2013-14 Budget released in May, with the additional cost to be $1.3 billion over the four years to 2016-17. The increased costs reflect updated actual and projected asylum seeker arrivals and the cost of regional processing centres.
The largest part of this increase will be as a result of the new Papua New Guinea Regional Resettlement Arrangement, which is expected to cost $175 million in 2013-14 and $1.1 billion over four years. Some of the funding for this new policy will come from a $423 million reduction in the operating costs of the onshore detention network over the four years to 2016-17. Capital costs of $194 million are included in 2013-14 to expand Manus Island facilities.
Included in the operating costs is support for asylum seekers living in community-based arrangements of $13 million in 2013-14 and $236 million over four years. These costs will be offset through a reduction in the budget of the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), with Australian funding of PNG’s development of a refugee status determination process to be funded from the provision for expanded aid funding held in the contingency reserve.
Additional expenses outlined in the economic statements include $12 million between the Attorney-General’s department and DIAC for the PNG Arrangement communication campaign, as well as an additional $150 million over four years for ‘official development assistance’ for PNG’s aid package.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has increased visa application charges again. On 1 July 2013, many charges were increased by between 75% and 125% but most charges will be subject to a further increase of 15% from 1 September 2013. The Government expects to gain $114.9 million in revenue in 2013-14 and a total of $542 million over four years as a result of the new increase.
As a cost saving measure, all asylum seekers living in the community and then granted a Protection Visa will not be eligible for Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS) from 30 August 2013. This reduction in support for people granted a Protection Visa (sub-class 866) is expected to save $28.4 million in 2013-14 and $95 million over four years. People granted a Protection Visa will have access to Adult Migrant English Program, Complex Case Support (where eligible), the Settlement Grants Program, torture and trauma services and the Translating and Interpreting Service.
The current review of Australia’s Protection Status Determination System is expected to see a reduction in the Refugee Review Tribunal costs of $2.4 million over three years from 2014-15.
Additional spending also includes $50 million towards a capacity building program in Indonesia, and additional allocations for Australia’s immigration detention network:
$89 million over two years in capital measures and expenses for Blaydin Point (near Wickham Point IDC in Darwin)
Almost $71 million over two years for ‘short-term onshore contingency’ (expanding contingency numbers in current detention facilities)
Over $188 million in capital measures and expenses in 2013-14 for the proposed Singleton (NSW) detention facility
DIAC will also allocate $10 million towards the Building Socially Inclusive Communities initiative.