House debates

Tuesday, 23 May 2023

Questions without Notice


2:59 pm

Photo of Andrew GilesAndrew Giles (Scullin, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs) Share this | Hansard source

I thank the member for Holt for the question. I recognise her keen interest in immigration policy and also her deep understanding of what the mess left by those opposite means for her community and the aspirations that she's been standing up for in this place so strongly for the last year.

When the borders were closed, those opposite had a great opportunity, a once-in-a-generation opportunity, to examine and re-orientate our immigration system so it was working for all Australians. But what did they do?

A government member: Nothing.

'Nothing' is generous. It was worse than that. They told people who were here to 'go home'. They cut visa and migration staff by 20 per cent. What they did, in walking away from their responsibility for the immigration function of national government, was leave a terrible mess. A terrible individual mess but also a mess that impacts every Australian and every Australian community today. There were nearly a million visas waiting for us.

Members opposite should think about this when they think about some of the comments they make about the challenges this government is dealing with. There were nearly a million visa applications unattended. They should think about that. Today that number is down by 40 per cent; and 70 per cent lower in the temporary visa system. We also understand that our migration system has got to work with, not opposed to, the other ways in which we regulate our labour market and, particularly, the work that's being done by ministers Clare and O'Connor in the education and skills space, instead of running in the opposite direction, as it did for more than a decade, running down our future. The member for New England should reflect on his role in running down our future, I reckon, because he is a gold-medal performer in that regard.

Today, businesses, migrants and families around Australia have certainty when they use the visa system. Waiting times are down, particularly for health and education visas, where regional communities in particular are benefiting. The former government left nearly 20,000 skilled regional visa applications pending. These were people who were living and working in regional communities who were left behind by those opposite. We didn't stop at that. We also tripled the number of skilled regional visa places, to recognise there are real issues in regional communities.

Unlike those opposite, we're not talking about it; we're getting on with fixing the problem. Zero agricultural visas were granted by those opposite. I don't know if anything was talked about more by those opposite than the ag visa. That delivered not a single visa place. On the other hand, we are getting on with the job. We've got bridging visas down. Bridging visas, a sign of a system in chaos, are now down by more than 50 per cent, because we recognise the critical role of immigration in building our economy and supporting Australian communities. (Time expired)


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