House debates

Monday, 14 October 2019

Private Members' Business

Immigration, Citizenship

11:01 am

Photo of Julian LeeserJulian Leeser (Berowra, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

It is interesting to have another motion today from the Labor Party on immigration. This motion indicates Labor has nothing of substance when it comes to migration. Indeed, what we have heard this morning is more spin than a ferris wheel. Australia can't trust Labor on immigration, and this motion proves it. Visa decision-making—let us be very clear—is not being privatised. This is 'Mediscare' redux. Labor's motto when the facts don’t suit is to accuse their opponents of doing something they're not actually doing. What's next? They will accuse us of faking the moon landing or putting fluoride in the water for mind control. If you believe the Labor Party, you'd believe Harold Holt was taken by a Chinese sub and that the US government is reverse engineering alien technology at Area 51. Back in the real world, we like to deal with facts.

If Labor were interested in finding out the facts, they'd discover that the Department of Home Affairs is conducting a tender process for a new workflow tool, a software interface that will support digital visa applications and enable officials to have more time to spend on the parts of the visa process which actually require assessment and decision-making. This modernisation process is necessary to reduce processing times and to ensure visa decision-making continues to support key export industries, like tourism and education, as well as helping ensure the integrity of the visa system. Let me be clear: the government remains responsible for all visa decision-making. We will determine the visa rules and how decisions are made. We will remain responsible for national security and community protection by maintaining control of visa decision-making.

Since Labor don't seem to know anything about the tender process, it might be worth me laying out a little bit more about what this is actually all about. Firstly, the provider of the workflow tool will have no role whatsoever in visa decision-making. The purpose of the tender is to implement technology to take away some of the inefficiencies that currently exist in the visa application process. Secondly, the reform will allow the department to refocus its efforts on higher value, more complex decision-making. Thirdly, the reform will enforce border integrity.

I'd like to correct some other claims that seem to have arisen from Labor's participation in debates on visa processing. My friend the member for Fenner outlined, with the CPSU talking points this morning, some of the issues Labor have been running. Let me be clear: this process is not being driven by a desire to reduce departmental staffing costs. Claims that this process will lead to wholesale job losses and office closures are simply false, and those making the claims know that. There has been no overall funding cut in the Department of Home Affairs since Minister Dutton took over in December 2014. In fact, the overall total departmental funding has actually increased.

When they get their facts so wrong, why would anyone trust the Labor Party with immigration policy in this country? When you look at their record, no-one should take any lessons from Labor at all on migration policy. This is the party who, when they were last in office, gave us the failed immigration policies that saw 50,000 people turn up on our doorsteps on 800 boats with 8,000 children in detention, with 17 detention centres opened. The cost of this failure in dollar terms was $17 billion. That doesn't compare with the human cost of the failure, which is the fact that, under Labor, 1,200 people drowned at sea. Those 1,200 people might just be a statistic to the Labor Party but we will never let them forget those people, because those lives were needlessly lost while Labor was in office.

Labor like to claim to be the great humanitarians and to be concerned about the poor and the downtrodden, but they aren't. Instead of 5,000 people per year being granted a special humanitarian visa, that number dropped to 500 in Labor's last year in government. This is because available places were taken by people who had arrived by boat. People who were waiting and most in need of asylum were prevented from obtaining protection in Australia because Labor were sloppy about their border policy. Just six years ago Australia's humanitarian program was not in order; it was a catastrophe. Since regaining government we have restored the program. In 2018-19 we granted more than 7½ thousand special humanitarian visas.

Then there is medevac. Labor took control of this House for one day with their mates on the crossbench and the Greens and gave us medevac, where any two doctors could cause a detainee to leave Nauru and Manus and come to Australia—a major weakening of our border protection system, and an example of what Labor would do if they ever came to government again. Medevac doesn't apply the character test to migrants, as is the case with other visas. It's a law made contrary to the advice of officials, yet it's an example of what Labor would do to our borders.

Because of the Morrison government, Australia now has one of the most respected migration systems in the world. This is because of the orderly system we have put in place over the last six years. We are not privatising decision-making. I say to those opposite: when you stop telling lies about the privatisation of visa processing, we will stop telling the truth about your failed border protection policy. (Time expired)

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