11th June, 2014

PICTURE: bjeayes/www.istockphoto,com

DAVID ADAMS

Processing and accommodating asylum seekers in Tasmania would be "significantly cheaper" than what it's costing to run the Federal Government's offshore detention centres, according to Misha Coleman, chief executive of the Australian Churches Refugees Taskforce.

Speaking ahead of a public forum to be held in Tasmania on the issue of asylum seekers on Thursday, Ms Coleman said the taskforce - which is supported by the National Council of Churches in Australia - estimated it was costing $3,744 a day for each man, woman and child held in offshore detention.

She said the billions spent on offshore detention over the coming years could not be justified when the Federal Government was cutting health and education funding to the states.

Noting that the Tasmanian Government estimated it will be $2.1 billion worse off over the next decade as a result of the Federal Budget and that the Federal Government planned to spend $4.2 billion on offshore detention over the next four years, Ms Coleman said Tasmanians were "entitled to question the Federal Government's priorities".

"We're the only country in the world that wastes money in this way. While we're sinking billions into two other islands- Nauru and Manus Island - we're slashing the budget of our own island state, Tasmania."

The Anglican Archbishop of Tasmania, John Harrower - the patron of the ACRC - will host a private function attended by Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman as well as state and federal politicians on Thursday. He said Australia's national spending priories reflected the country's "values as a society".

"Spending money on the care of asylum seekers in Tasmania, instead of Nauru and Manus Island, would stimulate economic growth and provide jobs in Tasmania," he said. "And based on Tasmania's record of caring for asylum seekers and refugees, we'd get a more ethical, humane and legal approach to the care of asylum seekers, as opposed to the cruelty that is being inflicted in the offshore camps."

A public forum on the issue of asylum seekers and refugees will be be held at St David's Cathedral in Hobart from 5.30pm to 6.30pm on Thursday, 12th June.

~ www.australianchurchesrefugeetaskforce.com.au