23 Aug KATTER’S CALL TO BRING REFUGEES TO THE REGIONS
Outback Queensland communities including Mount Isa, Biloela and Longreach would be an ideal home for some of the thousands of Afghan refugees seeking to escape the Taliban’s return to power, Katter’s Australian Party Leader Robbie Katter has said.
Mr Katter said rural Queensland had been for years experiencing the negative impacts of population decline, an issue which had been exacerbated by a huge glut in workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said employers in all sectors were desperate for reliable workers, and that outback communities were overwhelmingly accepting of refugees provided they were willing to assimilate to Australian society and had respect for the nation’s democracy, rule of law and values.
“North West Queensland was developed on the back of people from the Middle East – the second biggest workforce in the Mount Isa region during its development were the Afghani camel drivers so their contribution to our communities goes back a long way,” Mr Katter said.
“Obviously a huge concern for the KAP is the sustainability and growth of our rural and regional communities – we have towns to grow and considering there is that huge humanitarian need at the moment, I believe this could be a great opportunity.”
Mr Katter said while it was for the Federal Government to decide on what number of refugees could be accepted, careful consideration had to be given to the many challenges currently being faced by Australian society including housing shortages, a stretched public hospital system and a rising national welfare bill.
He said an influx of refugees from war-town Afghanistan into the nation’s major cities had to be avoided, as this would inevitably lead to building of metropolitan ghettos that limited the newcomers’ opportunities to embrace the true Australian way of life.
“We definitely don’t want all the refugees coming in big clusters into the cities where they don’t assimilate; this would be unacceptable and to the detriment of our national interest,” the Traeger MP said.
“But by virtue of the fact these people want to get out of a chaotic, non-democratic government this shows they should hold good credentials to come here.
“If the Government can provide to our communities the necessary social infrastructure and support to sustainably introduce and retain the refugees locally, then I think this could be a really positive opportunity to help people in need whilst strengthening the economic and social fabric of our towns.”
Mr Katter said as 3,000 humanitarian visas had already been allocated to those escaping Afghanistan, with potentially more places to be opened up, it was vital the refugees’ integration into society be strategically considered in a way that benefits them as well as Australia.
This includes building strong regional communities and filling rural workers gaps, he said.