Tuesday, 12 May 2020
Protection Visas; Consideration
That the Senate take note of the document.
I rise to take note of document 21, Department of Home Affairs—Protection visas—Statement pursuant to the order of the Senate of 14 November 2019 to March 2020. It's worth putting on the record the context under which Senator Keneally and her Labor colleagues sought these documents and, by the way, the Greens did support these documents being provided to the Senate. But, unfortunately, since the last election, Labor has been engaged in a coordinated attack on people seeking asylum and on migrant workers. That's further in the context of the Labor Party support for the cruelty that we have seen towards people who sought asylum in Australia in offshore detention. The Labor Party has sought to blame migrants for declining wages and for taking Australian jobs. This is a deeply short-sighted and wrong-headed approach that risks further damage to Australia's migrant communities. It's wrong, because migrants are not to blame for employers paying low wages. In fact, it is employers, enabled by both major parties in this country, who are responsible. By trying to outflank Minister Dutton from the right, the Labor Party risks egging him on to crack down harder on some of the most at-risk people in this country. Labor are using Minister Dutton and Senator Hanson's language on border security. They are implying that we have something to fear from migrants, especially people seeking asylum.
If people have a claim for asylum in Australia, they must be allowed to make it. We are still, despite 20 years of bipartisan cruelty towards refugees and torture, signatories to the refugee convention. Now that the so-called aeroplane people have been stopped because of the pandemic, I'd urge the Labor Party to start working to help those who in fact are in desperate need—people on Australian temporary visas across a range of visa categories who are stranded overseas and have been separated from their homes, their families and their work here.
I just want to very quickly share a couple of stories with the Senate now. Michael says: 'I'm on a 457 visa, listed on the medium- and long-term strategic skills list and eligible to apply for permanent residency this year. Our entire lives are in Australia. We also have a puppy in temporary care. We recently travelled to the UK to visit family before the outbreak. During our time on holiday, the border closures were announced by Scott Morrison. We booked the next available flight but, with the travel time from the UK to Australia and the time difference, we were unable to return to our lives in Australia before the travel ban.' This is from Sean: 'My fiancee, Aoife, received a devastating phone call on 22 March. Her sister died suddenly from epilepsy. She was 25 years old. We returned home to Ireland to support her family and be with them in this tragic time. Aoife is 22 weeks pregnant. Our obstetrician and hospital are in Sydney. She is due to give birth in Randwick on 7 September 2020. Her doctors have advised it is unsafe for her to travel on long-distance flights too late in the pregnancy, so time is really not on our side. We need to get back to continue our planned scans and appointments. All our private health insurance is only valid to us in Australia. We have put our heart and soul into building our lives in Australia over the past four years.'
In both of those circumstances, this government has rejected claims from those people for exemptions to the travel ban. This is a major problem for the government, because it is a major problem not just for Sean and Aoife and not just for Michael and his family but for so many other people who have built homes and lives in this country but who are still on temporary visas, and this government is keeping them away from this country.
The arbitrary decision-making process around claims for exemption from the travel ban must end. The government must immediately publish a list of criteria against which applications for exemptions to the travel ban are assessed. This would at least give people the common courtesy of understanding why they are being kept from their homes at a time like this, and it would provide accountability and transparency in the decision-making process. The government must act on this now. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.