House debates

Wednesday, 18 October 2023

Questions without Notice

Temporary Work Visas

2:34 pm

Photo of David SmithDavid Smith (Bean, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Home Affairs. The recently released Nixon report exposed extensive exploitation of the visa system, but it's not the first review to do so. What actions are the Albanese Labor government taking to tackle the very serious issues in the migration system?

2:35 pm

Photo of Clare O'NeilClare O'Neil (Hotham, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Home Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Bean for his excellent question.

I have spoken in the House this week about the Nixon report and its findings about the serious and systemic failures in our migration system. To remind the House: Christine Nixon, a former police commissioner, reviewed our migration system and found that the system was being used to perpetrate some of the worst crimes there are—sexual exploitation and human trafficking—and that things were so bad that Australia had become a target for organised crime as a result. She found that the root causes of this problem were delay and a profound lack of enforcement overseen by the opposition leader who sits opposite me now.

What we know is that the opposition leader cannot claim not to have known about these problems while he was minister, because there was report after report—

Photo of Michael SukkarMichael Sukkar (Deakin, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

What a lightweight you are!

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

The minister will pause. The member for Deakin will leave the chamber under 94(a). When you're told to cease interjecting, that's the time to cease interjecting. The minister in continuation.

The member for Deakin then left the chamber.

Photo of Clare O'NeilClare O'Neil (Hotham, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Home Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you. The opposition leader can't claim not to have known about these problems, because while he was minister he received repeated reports that told him some variation on this subject. In 2016, the Senate Education and Employment References Committee published a report called, simply, A national disgrace: the exploitation of temporary work visa holders. The opposition leader did nothing. In 2017, a study from the University of New South Wales exposed exploitation of temporary migrants. The opposition leader did nothing. In 2018, the Fair Work Ombudsman released findings of a four-year inquiry showing widespread noncompliance amongst employers. The opposition leader did nothing. In 2019, the former assistant minister in the Home Affairs portfolio, the member for La Trobe, oversaw a report and said himself:

Organised crime and illegitimate labour hire companies are using this loophole to bring out illegal workers who are often vulnerable and open to exploitation. This represents an orchestrated scam that enables these criminal elements to exploit foreign workers in Australia …

The opposition leader did nothing. Five reports in six years: all of them ignored by the opposition leader, who refused to do the hard work to fix this system. Instead, he focused his energy and attention on building a completely hypocritical public reputation on being a tough guy on our borders when he was absolutely the opposite.

We are taking a different approach. We are taking serious action because we are serious about this problem. This work is going to take a bit of time, but I can tell the parliament that we have done so much already: we have rebuilt the immigration compliance section in our department; we have given new powers and funding to those who regulate migration agents; and we've invested an additional $50 million in making sure that people follow the rules.

The Nixon review is a 44-page indictment on the opposition leader and the incompetent way he managed our borders. I spoke yesterday about one case where a criminal walked into our country and set up an exploitation ring, just as he had done in another country. The opposition leader let him into Australia and let him stay, bouncing from visa to visa to visa. Our government kicked him out and put a lifetime ban on him ever coming to our country. (Time expired)