House debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Questions without Notice


3:10 pm

Cassandra Fernando (Holt, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

FERNANDO () (): My question is to the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs. How is the Albanese Labor government cleaning up the visa backlog mess left behind by the former government?

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 her question—

The outstanding member for Holt, as the Minister for Early Childhood Education reminds me. I thank her for her question and her deep interest in this.

For you, Member for Aston, to find this funny is absolutely extraordinary, because you played a major role in creating this backlog.

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Aston will cease interjecting.

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

You played a major role, Member for Aston, in creating this backlog, although of course you were not alone.

When we arrived in government, because of the failures of the previous government there were almost a million visa applications waiting to be processed, the result of a decade of cruelty and a decade of neglect. These backlogs were choking our immigration system, choking our economy too. Members opposite might want to think about the terrible impact on small business of this backlog, but they should also think about the impact on our society as a multicultural nation. Fixing this mess—everyone should be clear—is an urgent task of this government.

I'm pleased to advise the House that the backlog is now under 740,000, because we have engaged more than 300 new staff, working in roles supporting visa processing. More staff are being onboarded. I'm going to be clear: we can't clear this backlog overnight, but we are seeing results. We have seen 3.4 million visas processed and finalised since 1 June, and we are on track to hit our target of 600,000 applications on hand by the end of the year, creating certainty for businesses and certainty for families, because this government understands how important family connections are in our country, where one in two Australians were born overseas or have a parent born overseas.

Since being elected, we've made a series of changes to make sure that loved ones can once again spend time together in this country, in our country. We've streamlined processing policies, whilst keeping integrity mechanisms in check. And we will replace ministerial direction 80, simplifying the prioritisation system for family visa applications. I've been made aware, since becoming minister, of numerous applications for partner visas that have been waiting for finalisation since 2013—10 years that Australian citizens and permanent residents have been separated from their loved ones. In fact, just two days ago we finalised a case that had been on the books for nine years—nine years of people being separated from their loved ones, including, in many cases, their children. These are the real human consequences of a decade of neglect.

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.