House debates

Monday, 14 October 2019

Private Members' Business

Immigration, Citizenship

10:45 am

Photo of Julie OwensJulie Owens (Parramatta, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Mr Deputy Speaker, did I actually hear members opposite say they are committed to improving the visa system for Australia, when the reality of what has happened under this government in the last six years is completely the opposite? I have people in my electorate who've come to my office with terrible stories of waiting over two years for their 10-year-old son's visa to be approved—of not seeing their 10-year-old son for two years. There are people who've come to my office whose baby was born after they left their country of birth and who have never seen that baby in the first three years of that child's life.

These are shocking stories. Quite frankly, I worry about my staff, who have to handle these stories and every day have to deal with people who are living through extraordinary pain, whose hearts are broken because our visa system is broken.

Under this government it has got worse. There are 220,000 people still waiting to have their citizenship applications processed as future citizens, and they wait 13 months to pledge allegiance to Australia under this government. Once they're approved, they wait. They wait and they wait. I've had people who've been phoned the week before their citizenship ceremony to be told it was cancelled and they'd have to come back later. I've had people come to my office to prove their Australianness, desperate for citizenship; they come to my office and try to prove to me how worthy they are by telling me that they've paid for their education—that they've paid for their degree—because they're waiting for their citizenship ceremony, and telling me that they've worked every day for the last three years, and that they've paid their taxes. They come to me to prove their Australianness in a way that I don't have to. My heart breaks for them. I just ask those opposite who were telling us today that the system is working, and they're trying to make it better by privatising it, to have a bit of a rethink about this. It is not working, and privatising it will not make it better.

Look at the history of privatisation. I'm actually going to look at all levels of government and both sides of politics here. We tend to privatise things just at the wrong time, and it's the wrong time to privatise the visa system because the world is becoming smaller. There are more mobile work opportunities. People are moving. Families are more dispersed across the globe. People move more often. They marry across borders. It's a different world now, from 10 or 15 years ago—or 40 years ago, which is where this government belongs. It's a different world. And now is the time to keep the brain—which is your public sector—intact, to keep the knowledge of people who have worked in this sector for decades intact so that they can help us work through the changes we're going to need to make to make sure that Australia can properly participate in a global economy, with a mobile workforce and families moving across borders.

But look at privatisation. Recently, my local council privatised rubbish collection—just at a time when we need less rubbish. So now, the rubbish collectors get paid for more rubbish. The more rubbish they collect, the more they get paid. It's designed to fail what we need now.

We see the privatising of hospitals when, actually, we know that over 60 per cent of people in hospitals shouldn't even be there. So, now, hospitals get paid to have people in hospitals, when actually our health system should be about keeping them out. It's designed to fail.

We privatised the electricity grid just when we should've been trading on the grid and finding ways to pull more power off it. That was a stupid decision, to privatise the grid. We've privatised roads when we should have fewer cars on them. These are stupid decisions. I won't even go into the privatising of the serum laboratories and the transmission towers, or of the Snowy hydro scheme, for that matter.

We also see appalling examples of privatisation, where businesses are paid for their inputs, when usually in the private sector you get rewarded for your outcome. It's not that you train a person for work; it's that they get a job and the company is happy, and, therefore, other people come to your college because your outcome was good. In the privatisation of the voc ed system, you got paid for enrolling a person. If you enrolled a person and they didn't turn up, you got more money than you would if they graduated. It was designed to fail. It was designed to bring in shonks and it was designed to fail.

This will be the same. You can imagine the wonderful rorts that will go along with this, such as relationships with airline companies: 'You want a visa? Would you like flights with that?' This is what happens when the private sector moves into an area where the outcome is so difficult to manage. Are they going to be rewarded for the number of visas they process, which means they'll process them too fast? Are they going to be rewarded for the quality of people? This is ridiculous. On what basis do you reward a commercial business for processing visas? It is designed to fail from the start and it will follow the failure of all the other privatisations that have happened over the last decade. (Time expired)

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