House debates

Monday, 14 October 2019

Private Members' Business

Immigration, Citizenship

11:11 am

Photo of Pat ConaghanPat Conaghan (Cowper, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

I'm somewhat surprised that the member for Scullin moved this motion, bearing in mind his background in law prior to coming to this place. I assume that with that background he would have experienced, as I did over a period of seven years as a registered migration agent and lawyer, the difficulties with the processing system over the past 10 years. I would have thought that, with that experience, people on the other side of this room, including the member for Scullin, would embrace the changes proposed by the coalition government.

Let's take out the hysteria, the rhetoric and the lies that this is privatisation and that jobs will go and let's look at the facts. I will give you an example of a client of mine—a plumber from the UK. He had been a plumber for 20 years. Plumbing was on the skilled occupation list; Australia required plumbers to come here by way of a skilled visa. He came to me and made an application. We put the application in. It took 13 months for that application to be processed. It took 13 months because it was a paper application, it had to be done in triplicate and it was sent to DIMIA, as it was back then, and assigned a case agent. That person had multiple cases at any one time. This proposal seeks to outsource and streamline the process for people like that professional person, who wanted to come to Australia to enrich not only Australia but his own life. They suggest that this is an attempt to privatise. Labor knows that that is untrue. They suggest that people are going to lose jobs. That is untrue. It's a furphy and a ruse—we might as well call it a 'Labor'.

Let's look at some more statistics. In the current year to 28 February the refusal rate across these programs was tracking at 3.8 per cent. This has involved a significant and commensurate increase in work effort and time for the department to appropriately assess and decide applications, including spouse applications, contributory parent applications and 457 applications. Despite this growth, the department has achieved greater levels of productivity, finalising more applications than it has received, by encouraging the uptake of online lodgement and enabling data entry through the department, by continually improving systems and processes and by consolidating visas into hubs.

The delay was way too long and happening way too often. This move by the coalition should be applauded, and those who are saying it is privatisation and will end in job losses should be condemned.

While the increasing movement of people globally brings with it many benefits to Australia, it also brings new threats to our security. This is not just about border protection. In fact, it's more about the ability for people to lodge their visas, whether they be humanitarian visas or a spouse visa, and to have those looked at and assessed in a timely fashion. That's exactly what this government is attempting to do. What Labor is attempting to do is turn it around, clutching at straws and making it into an issue that does not exist. So I welcome this government's policy to bring in a streamlining of the process and I look forward to seeing the numbers of people waiting for those visas reduced significantly.

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