House debates

Tuesday, 23 March 2021


Joint Standing Committee on Migration; Report

5:34 pm

Photo of Peter KhalilPeter Khalil (Wills, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

The priority of any federal government, any Australian government, should always be the Australian people. We as parliamentarians are elected to serve the Australian people and are elected by the Australian people to do so. Every decision that this parliament makes should have the Australian people at its centre. That's why I'm slightly embarrassed to be standing here speaking on the recommendations of the Joint Standing Committee on Migration's interim report into Australia's skilled migration program, which fail to put the Australian people first.

There are still two million Australians either unemployed and looking for work or underemployed and looking for more work, and this figure is only set to rise at the end of the month when the government ends JobKeeper. Despite this, we have this report which recommends a new migration plan that would prioritise foreign workers over Australians for jobs like hairdressers, carpenters, electricians, seafarers, cooks, motor mechanics and many more. These recommendations do not put Australians first. This will undermine the ability of Australians to get jobs by making it easier for businesses to bring in migrant workers. And the report recommends that the government weaken labour market testing and expand the number of occupations on the skills shortage list to include chefs, veterinarians, cafe managers, seafarers, motor mechanics, cooks, carpenters, electricians and many other hospitality roles, with no consideration of what this means for Australians looking for jobs now.

These recommendations also see the scarce quarantine spots and scarce spots on flights to Australia go to some of these migrant temporary workers. This is when there are still 40,000 Aussies stuck overseas trying to get home. In September, the Prime Minister promised stranded Australians that he would get them home by Christmas. That didn't happen. It's March and we're still waiting. And now government MPs on this joint standing committee on migration think that it's a great idea to start filling up those all-too-rare spots on flights and in quarantine with foreign temporary workers. It makes no sense. For the government to end JobKeeper and increase JobSeeker by a mere $3.57 per day and now place businesses and foreign temporary workers ahead of unemployed Australians and Australians stuck overseas—all in the same month—is really an insult.

The issue here is what we have as a vision for this country, with respect to our immigration program. As a son of migrants, the immigration debate does not offend me, and here's why. I'm an Australian. I'm very proud to be an Australian. My parents came from Egypt 50 years ago to settle in this country. I think we have to have the debate about immigration and migration to ensure our best economic, social and cultural future. Prime Minister Morrison's contribution to this debate is to make a virtue of reducing permanent migration. He stated back in 2019, before the pandemic:

… we brought the permanent migration rate down to its lowest level in a decade by focusing on the integrity of the visa system and prioritising Australians for Australian jobs.

That's what the Prime Minister said in late 2019. I have a message for the Prime Minister: when I talk about Australian jobs, it's about Australian citizens. I'm talking about people with Greek, Chinese, Vietnamese, African, Latin American, Lebanese, Italian, Irish and Indian backgrounds, and new Australians from every—


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