Monday, 14 October 2019
Private Members' Business
I rise to express extreme disappointment with this motion from the opposition suggesting that the government is planning to privatise the entire visa-processing system. Nothing could be further from the truth. This government is not privatising the visa decision-making process, simply conducting a tender process for a new workflow tool that will support the visa application process. In raising this motion, those opposite are running diversionary tactics and again proving that they ignore the basis of good government and, certainly, are not interested in real outcomes.
Seeking input into visa-processing issues at present is considered necessary by the government, because we all know processing times that feed into visa decision-making conducted by government are too long. They are taking too long. We recognise the importance of a process that will in fact support key export industries such as tourism and education by bringing in skilled people with the appropriate visas. That is certainly the case in my electorate of Groom in terms of tourism and education, but most particularly agriculture.
Let's look at real outcomes, as I've suggested. The Minister for Immigration has advised that, in the first three months of this year, under the permanent skilled migrant program, there has been a 124 per cent increase in the number of regional visas compared to the same period last year. Now, that is important in regional Australia, particularly for agriculture. The government is interested in real outcomes. That is why the government will remain responsible for national security and community protection by maintaining control of the visa decision-making process and, as I said, by making sure that we are assisting our country in terms of those industries, particularly in regional Australia, as the minister has outlined in the program for migrants to go into regional areas.
The government is very much focused on proper process and prioritising the decision-making process, as I have said, To have skilled and experienced officers, for example, bogged down in processing issues in terms of the handling of visas, is certainly not the best use of our resources. The government intends to outsource part of that process to reduce the time it takes up of experienced officers, so that they can refocus on higher priority decision-making in relation to visas. Those opposite would suggest that this move is all about wholesale job losses—offices being closed, for example. Those claims are false, they are misleading, and those who are making those claims know that that is the case.
This is about good government, applying our resources to the highest priority areas for consideration. That is about visa decisions and it's about real outcomes—making sure that we have our processes flowing such that we can have, for example, as I've mentioned, skilled migrants going into regional areas. What does that do? It achieves a number of objectives. It certainly supports regional industries such as in my electorate of Groom. But at the same time it spreads the load across our country. It helps feed into the management of population pressures, for example, in our metropolitan areas. And we know that infrastructure spending being committed by the federal government is certainly focused on that priority.
This is a big-picture approach. It's the government focused on where the real decisions need to be made by senior officials, and that's certainly what they'll be freed up to do more of, by simply outsourcing some of these visa processing issues with a workflow tool that improves the process and achieves the outcomes that I have mentioned.