House debates

Monday, 14 October 2019

Private Members' Business

Immigration, Citizenship

10:41 am

Photo of John AlexanderJohn Alexander (Bennelong, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I thank the member for Scullin for raising the issue. As a multicultural nation, our visa system is central to our migration system and must work well in order to keep families together and communities united. My electorate is one of the most multicultural in the country. Communities from across the globe have come to Bennelong and made a permanent home, combining the great benefits of our various cultures. We have large communities of Italians, Armenians, Koreans, Indians and, of course, Cantonese Chinese. Each of these communities now live in a hybrid cultural space. They are proud Australians, but they are still closely connected with the cultures of their ancestors. As a result, our community is regularly home to celebrations from across the world. It is the merging of these many rich cultures that creates the dynamic and unique flavour that pervades the suburbs of Bennelong. As I regularly say, our diversity is our strength and our greatest asset.

But these great local communities are only able to be here because of our visa system. Locally, I get a number of visa issues through my office, and I have been delighted to be able to help many people reunite with their families and attend critical events, such as weddings, christenings and funerals, and spend time with their loved ones at times that really matter. I have helped people stuck in Syria in the aftermath of civil war there make it out to Australia, where they had families and friends to support them and help them join the broader community. I've successfully represented a person who came to my office desperate to get relatives out from India to Australia so they could be beside him when he married the love of his life. I have helped someone seeking visas so family members could make it to the hospital and have a final conversation with their dying mother before she passed away, providing comfort for the whole family. This is what we must always remember. Visas look bureaucratic, made up of paperwork and file numbers, but behind each one is a personal story of hope, aspiration and a new start or an old connection.

Our visa system has been working well for the last few decades and continues to work well under this government. The reforms we are enacting will not hamper this growth and will ensure the system can handle the huge number of applications it receives. Let me be clear: this government is not privatising visa decision-making. The Australian government will always remain responsible and accountable, as it is today, for all visa decision-making. It will determine visa rules and how decisions are made. The Department of Home Affairs is conducting a tender process for a new workflow tool that will support digital visa application and decision-making. This modernisation process will reduce processing times to ensure visa decision-making continues to support key export industries such as tourism and education and help keep us all safe.

To be clear, throughout these changes we'll remain responsible for national security and community protection by maintaining control of visa decision-making. The provider of the workflow tool will have no role whatsoever in visa decision-making. This reform will allow skilled and experienced officers to refocus their efforts on higher-value, more complex decision-making. This will enhance border integrity.

This process is not being driven by a desire to reduce departmental staffing or to cut costs. Claims that this process will lead to wholesale job losses and office closures are simply false. Our visa system is working and, with these reforms, it will only work better.

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