Australia’s immigration study tour for european journalists cost government $100kJanuary 11, 2018
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) spent $100,000 of taxpayer money flying six European journalists to Australia for an official tour to show them Australia’s approach to immigration policy, departmental documents have revealed.
Documents obtained by AAP under freedom of information laws reveal six journalists and a think tank researcher were flown business class from Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Ireland and Sweden, at a cost of close to $54,000 in March last year.
The remaining money was spent on four-star hotel accommodation in Sydney and Melbourne, domestic flights in Australia, bus hire and travel allowances covering food costs.
The tour was focused on multiculturalism and refugee policy in Australia, featuring briefings with the Immigration department to discuss Operation Sovereign Borders – the government’s crackdown on asylum seeker boat arrivals that began under the Abbott government.
The journalists also met with the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Refugee Council of Australia, Network Ten talent Waleed Aly, refugee lawyer Deng Adut and Australia’s 2017 Eurovision entrant Isaiah Firebrace.
There was also a visit to Wollongong to learn about its history of resettling refugees.
The Refugee Council’s Tim O’Connor was in the room when the group of journalists arrived, accompanied by a couple of DFAT staff. He said they were given a two-hour briefing, followed by individual interviews requested by some of the journalists.
“We were pretty frank,” Mr O’Connor told SBS News.
He said the Council told the group about Australia’s resettlement programs for newly arrived refugees, but also the “manner in which Australia treats people in asylum on Manus and Nauru”.
“They were very sympathetic to our perspective on how the asylum seekers were treated,” he said.
“They were confounded by the brutality of Australia’s policy”.
Mr O’Connor said none of the $100,000 had gone to the Refugee Council itself. He said he understood the tour was part of a government-organised media junket at the time, but was “shocked” to learn the total cost of the trip.