Other state governments are not ruling out following Victoria’s lead in offering assistance to asylum-seekers who have had their support cut off by the federal government, The Guardian reports.
Documents leaked in August revealed a Turnbull government plan to cut income and accommodation support for a number of single asylum-seekers in Australia by placing them on a bridging visa in an attempt to encourage them to return to Manus Island and Nauru.
At least 63 have since been transferred to the “final departure bridging E visa” and had their $200-per-week welfare assistance cut. They were given three weeks to move from government assisted housing.
“If you cannot find work to support yourself in Australia you will need to return to a regional processing country or any country where you have a right of residence,” an information document said.
In response, the Daniel Andrews-led Labor government last week announced a $600,000 package to assist affected asylum-seekers residing in Victoria.
The package covered housing, basic food, medical, clothing and transport expenses, as well as funding for caseworkers, and was praised by refugee organisations.
The federal government, which has defended its decision, refused to respond to Andrews’ announcement.
The Guardian has since contacted the relevant state governments, and only NSW appeared to rule out providing the same assistance.
“The determination of support payments to asylum-seekers on bridging visas is a matter entirely for the commonwealth,” said a spokesperson for the NSW multicultural department, which already provides a range of services for NSW-based asylum-seekers.
The Queensland government also provides state-funded assistance to asylum-seekers, but said it would “continue to monitor the situation” and work with partner organisations.
A spokesman for WA Premier Mark McGowan said their understanding was that most of the impact would be on families in Victoria and NSW. However, he added: “We need to assess the matter further and we’re currently looking to see what avenues are available.”
The South Australian government also refused to rule out providing assistance if it was needed, however a spokesman for the minister for communities and social inclusion, Zoe Bettison, said they believed there were only two men currently affected by the cut and both had found assistance from community organisations and gained employment.