Consider then, the terrible affront to our compassion that is our approach to the accommodation of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees from the Middle East. The delay in resettlement has caused much consternation among NGOs, academics and the media. As they point out with repeated dedication, it is a disgrace that we have not already housed the 12,000 we have committed to embrace.
Now, all leading academics, students and NGO policy-makers agree that best practice decision-making should be followed in this area. We should never make such important policy based on political whim, or without real accountability for policy structure. Thus, decision-makers must have skin in the game. To do otherwise would be indicative of populist, low-information policy thinkers. That we cannot tolerate.
In the spirit of this commitment to sophisticated policy development structures, may I modestly suggest a solution that is already at hand? One that will allow us to meet both our needs for instant compassion, and world’s-best policy structures of which any Ivy-League graduate would be proud.
According to a Jones Lang LaSalle’s 2015 study, there are about 58,000 beds of purpose-built student accommodation in the six major metropolitan areas of Australia. No doubt that has increased in the past 12 months. These are split about half-half between university-provided and privately-provided. They are in some of the best locations in each metro area, generally in suburbs dominated by the best of progressive thinkers, public servants, and media and creative workers.
There can be no better or more welcoming approach to housing the remaining 8.000 Syrians and Iraqis than to dedicate a mere 30% of University-provided accommodation to doing good. If we compel the private sector to do its share, that percentage would halve. A mere 15%. Not only would our refugees be housed immediately, but they would benefit from living within a community that is leading in its compassion and support for them. An open, progressive, highly-intelligent, gender-equal community that cares deeply for social justice issues. And given that community’s promotion of refugee housing policy, it would be a standout example of accountable policymaking which would shame reactionary governments into embracing real liberal processes.
It could be done tomorrow with a single decision from our University leaders and students. What’s stopping us?