Monday, 14 October 2019
Private Members' Business
It's a pleasure to rise in the House today to speak against this motion, and it's an inauspicious start for Labor in this sitting fortnight already. It didn't take the Labor members opposite very long to throw off the edict of the member for Grayndler that they were going to be a positive opposition. They have reverted to the messages from the May election, back to opposition for opposition's sake. The member for Scullin's speech was a bit like going back in time to a couple of months ago—a bit of business bashing. I was surprised that the words 'the big end of town' didn't pass his lips. He was so close. You could almost see him straining to get it out as they reverted to their messages of old. It's back to the shabby politics that we see from Labor in this space. They have no credibility at all when it comes to immigration and home affairs, a policy area that under Labor was a total shambles. When it comes to immigration and home affairs, we know that it is only this side of the chamber that can be trusted to keep our nation safe and our borders secure and that can run a fair, equitable and budgeted—that's the key—immigration system.
Let's start with the facts about this private member's motion, an attempt by the member for Scullin to throw stones and wilfully distort what the government is actually doing. The government is not privatising visa decision-making. Again, we are not privatising visa decision-making. The member for Scullin knows it, which is why he's sitting there with a big smile on his face. The Department of Home Affairs is conducting a tender process for a new workflow tool that will support digital visa applications and decision-making. We are doing this as we continue to improve and modernise systems and processes that assist in reducing visa decision-making times. The provider of the workflow tool will have no role whatsoever in visa decision-making. The reform will, in fact, allow the department's skilled and experienced officers to refocus their efforts on higher value, more complex decision-making that will enhance our border integrity. It is not driven by a desire to reduce departmental staffing levels, as those opposite have claimed.
So we have a government on this side of the chamber with a stable and consistent approach when it comes to home affairs and immigration: strong borders and responsible economic management to fund them. In contrast to that consistent policy approach, Labor are wildly inconsistent when it comes to home affairs and immigration. They dismantled the Howard government era policies while they were in government, allowing 1,300 people to die at sea, and then they claim to be the compassionate party. In the lead-up to the May election, they claimed that there wasn't a wafer of difference between them and the government in this particular policy area; yet they went on a unity ticket with the Greens to introduce the medevac legislation. They are simply all over the place.
While we are improving and modernising our immigration and visa processing—that is what Australians expect from their government—there is no doubt that it is a foreign concept to the Labor members opposite. They don't understand efficiency and integrity in this process. They don't understand what it is to hold the same policy position in this particular area over a period of time.
Let's remember what Labor did with this: 50,000 arrivals on 800 boats. Their 457 visa program spiralled out of control with an additional 40,000 workers coming in under Labor's dodgy skills list, which blew out to 650 occupations, and there was a budget blowout of $60 billion to fund it all. How did they pay for this? We know that they don't do responsible economic management very well. So, to make up for the $16 billion shortfall, they took a razor to Australia's enforcement agencies to prop up their program. They cut $128 million from the AFP between the 2010-11 and 2013-14 financial years. They cut $735 million and 700 staff from customs.
So, when the member for Scullin comes in here and claims that the government is trying to reduce staff, we know it's a nonsense. We also know that, in their time in government, they reduced 700 staff from the customs department alone to save $735 million so that they could fund a $16 billion blowout, because they couldn't control Australia's border or immigration systems. So let's be clear: we will not be lectured to by the opposition when it comes to this. (Time expired)