Immigration axes Refugee Council funds

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has axed more than half a million dollars of funding for Australia's peak refugee body, despite it being published in this month's budget.

The Refugee Council of Australia was told last Friday by the Department of Immigration that its core funding of $140,000 a year would be cut just two weeks after it was allocated in this year's budget, with no explanation.

Federal Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.

Federal Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.

The council was also told the decision had been made by Mr Morrison.

A spokesman for Mr Morrison confirmed on Thursday the abolition of the funding and said the government was returning to the funding model of the Howard government.

''This decision has been taken in light of the tight fiscal environment and budgetary constraints as a result of Labor's failed economic management that are having an impact on all government expenditure.''

Chief executive of the council Paul Power said he was shocked by the phone call.

''This decision is petty and vindictive and is symbolic of the minister's very poor relationship with the non-government sector,'' he said.

''While we, and other agencies, maintain constructive dialogue with other members of the government, it is clear that Mr Morrison has little interest in the ideas and concerns of non-government agencies which support refugees and asylum seekers.''

On Friday, Mr Power expanded on his comments saying the relationship between the refugee sector and government was probably at its ''lowest point ever''.

''It seems extraordinary that our organisation – which has been doing this work through thick and thin for 33 years – has been singled out for this treatment,'' he told ABC radio.

''This in many ways illustrates the state of the relationship between the non-government sector – particularly organisations working on asylum issues – and the government at the moment.''

This is not the first time the council has had its funding suddenly cut by the government. Following the ''Tampa affair'' under the Howard Liberal government in 2001, immigration minister Philip Ruddock also froze funding for the council. It was not reinstated until 2007 under the Rudd Labor government.

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