By JR on Friday, February 17, 2012
WASHING machines, microwave ovens, DVDs and plasma TVs are among a 60-item welcome gift pack for asylum seekers offered rent-free homes in the community. To fulfil a promise to move an influx of families out of detention, the Gillard Government is now fitting out each home with up to $10,000 worth of furnishings and electronics. They are given food hampers upon arrival at rented homes where they wait for their claims to be processed.
The revelation comes as border protection authorities reveal they have intercepted two more boats carrying asylum seekers overnight, five boats in the past week, and middle - and high-income families struggling with cost of living pressures brace for cuts to private health rebates and the impact of the carbon tax.
Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said this morning HMAS Leeuwin intercepted a boat carrying 65 people north north-east of Christmas Island late last night.
HMAS Ararat intercepted a vessel carrying 71 people west of Christmas Island early this morning, bringing to five the number of boats intercepted since last Saturday.
Everything from beds, fridges, mattresses and lounges to an alarm clock radio, clothes hangers and containers for biscuits are being bought in a "household goods formation package" that contains more than 60 items. It includes a television at a minimum size of 53cm.
An average family of five is eligible for $7100 worth of goods, while larger families of more than nine people can be provided with up to $9850 in furnishings, the Opposition has revealed after Senate estimates this week.
Special consideration is given to providing computers, internet access, mobile phones, bikes, skateboards, rollerblades, iPods, games consoles and sewing machines.
There are 97 homes being rented in Sydney suburbs - and funded by taxpayers - at an average cost of $416 a week with families arriving to a hamper of bread, butter, milk, eggs, other "essentials" and cleaning products. Asylum seekers are living in Ashfield, Auburn and Bankstown, Blacktown, Cabramatta, Dural and North Curl Curl.
Families with a baby can access a $750 pack of basic supplies. Phone and electricity connections are also paid for.
The assistance is on top of free doctors' visits, dental care, pharmaceuticals, education and payments of up to $433.25 a fortnight to sustain asylum seekers unable to work. Almost 1600 asylum seekers are housed in community detention across the country.
Opposition Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the revelations would disappoint families struggling with cost of living rises.
"The cost of Labor's border protection failures is a slap in the face to every Australian family trying to cope with rising costs of living, made worse by Labor's carbon tax and their abandonment of private health insurance," Mr Morrison said.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the government was being responsible in providing asylum seekers with basic provisions while their claims were being assessed. "We have a duty of care to provide essential items such as cleaning supplies, furniture and bedding, and baby items such as prams, for vulnerable asylum seekers in community detention," a spokesman said.
"People do not keep the goods, they remain in a house when a family moves out and are used by the next people who move in. These people are not allowed to work."
Asylum seekers late last year were asking for housing, visas and internet access when they arrived.
For more than five years the Red Cross has been contracted to provide the packages, but the numbers of people in community housing has exploded since Mr Bowen pledged in October 2010 to move most children out of detention. "They are basic supplies, we are not talking about luxury," Red Cross spokesman Michael Raper said.