How did a backlog of around 100,000 partner visa applications develop when the Migration Act clearly states it is illegal to limit the number of partner visas? When the Department of Employment undertake a systemic investigation into the 22 deaths of seasonal worker visa holders? Why have we significantly tightened legal criteria for all other skill stream visas yet the Global Talent Independent visa has almost no meaningful legal requirements? So many questions the new immigration minister Alex Hawke should ask the Department of Home Affairs.
Treasury’s December 2020 Population Statement assumes the migration program will return to 190,000 per annum from 2023-24. Has the Government formally announced this policy? Given the Prime Minister said the ceiling would be reduced to 160,000 a year to ‘bust congestion’, has the Government established that congestion will have been busted by 2023-24?
If the migration program is not increased to 190,000 a year from 2023-24, what is the Department of Home Affairs doing to deliver Treasury’s assumption of long-term Net Overseas Migration at 235,000 per annum? What are the risks in delivering Net Overseas Migration primarily through temporary migration with few pathways to permanent residence? Does that increase the risk of exploitation and abuse?
Media reports suggest the Government has spent almost $40 million in detaining this family and taking legal action against it. How much have we actually spent and what further costs are expected? How has this spending furthered the public interest? Why didn’t the department just leave the family in Biloela until all legal issues had been resolved? Given the level of community support for the family and from politicians across the spectrum, why didn’t DHA recommend previous Immigration Ministers use their intervention powers in this case? Would it not make sense to intervene now and let the family return to Biloela given this case strongly fits the guidelines for ministerial intervention?
Asylum Seekers and Refugees on Manus and Nauru
After Tampa, the Howard Government re-settled the refugees on Manus and Nauru, transferring most of them to Australia and New Zealand within three to four years. That did not re-start the boats because the Howard Government had its turnback policy in place as is the case currently. The current detainees on Manus and Nauru have been there for eight years at a cost of billions of dollars. Has DHA done a full analysis of the costs and the further expected costs? Why has DHA not resolved this situation earlier and saved the taxpayer a fortune? Why don’t we accept the New Zealand offer to re-settle these refugees and immediately close Manus and Nauru detention centres?
Temporary Protection Visa Holders and Legacy Caseload
There are around 30,000 people in Australia either on Temporary Protection visas or having their protection claims considered. Many have been in this limbo for more than 10 years. What is our plan for resolving this situation? And how long will it take? Ever since the start of post-war migration, we have learned the importance of resolving immigration status as quickly as possible rather than make the same mistakes as in Europe and the USA of having millions of people with an unresolved immigration status for decades. We know this is not the way to maintain social cohesion. Why don’t we provide a sensible pathway to permanent residence for these people given there is zero chance of them being returned? Given the shortfall in meeting the Humanitarian Program ceiling, why not use the unused places to grant permanent residence to Temporary Protection visa holders?
Australia’s Fifth Wave of Asylum Seekers
Over the past five to six years, more than 100,000 people have arrived on visitor visas and then applied for asylum. This is by far the biggest wave of asylum seekers in our history. Unlike past waves of asylum seekers to Australia, most in the fifth wave have come from a small number of countries with very low prospects of being found to be genuine refugees. This wave has all the characteristics of a labour trafficking scam. Given the Government’s priority of securing Australia’s borders, how did this happen? What have been the costs to date and what are the future costs? What steps have been taken to investigate and prosecute the organisers of this scam? What are the plans for processing the backlog, including at the AAT, and what is being done about the growing number found to not be refugees (currently around 25,000) and still in Australia? Are these people at severe risk of exploitation? What are the plans to prevent a recurrence of this scam after international borders re-open without a massive increase in refusal of genuine visitor visa applications?
How did a backlog of around 100,000 partner visa applications develop when the Migration Act clearly states it is illegal to limit the number of partner visas? Will the 72,000 places allocated to partner visas in 2020-21 be enough to clear the backlog? If not, how many years will it take to clear the backlog and get back to processing partner visas efficiently? What steps have we taken to ensure we never again act illegally in managing visa application caseloads?
Does the creation of the new Global Talent Independent (GTI) visa and allocating it 15,000 undermine all other skill stream visas? Why have we significantly tightened legal criteria for all other skill stream visas while developing this GTI visa with almost no meaningful legal requirements?
- Under the GTI visa, why do we allow some employers to propose people they employ or intend to employ without any legal requirements regarding training of Australians, labour market testing, minimum salary requirements while strengthening these same requirements for employer sponsored visas?
- Why are we planning to make all business skills visas provisional visas with strict performance requirements in terms of running businesses or investing in Australia before access to permanent residence while having no such requirements for business people and investors in the GTI visa who get immediate permanent residence? What is the risk business people and investors entering under the GTI visa never run a business in Australia or never invest in Australia?
- Why do we have no formal English language or skills testing requirements in the GTI visa but insist on these for state/territory sponsored visas and skilled independent visas?
- Given the high risk of fraud and cronyism in the GTI visa due to the lack of legal criteria, what monitoring and fraud prevention measures have been put in place?
With the marked increase in requirements for state/territory sponsored five-year provisional visa holders to access permanent residence, what steps are being taken to ensure at the end of five years we don’t have a large cohort of people who have lived in regional Australia for five or more years; do not wish to go home but are unable to access permanent residence? Don’t we need to re-think the design of these regional visas?
Universities are pressing for a return to strong growth in overseas students. However, with a weak labour market, would that risk a surge in students who either become destitute or are at grave risk of exploitation? What is proposed to check students have the financial capacity to study in Australia and won’t be at such risk?
Exploitation of Migrant Workers
Media reports on the exploitation of migrant workers suggest the problem has become endemic. This was also the finding of the Migrant Worker Task Force.
- What have we done to encourage the Department of Employment to undertake a systemic investigation into the 22 deaths of seasonal worker visa holders? Is this just the tip of the iceberg of the exploitation and abuse these workers suffer given they would be much more reluctant to report such abuse compared to working holiday makers?
- Why has DHA compliance activity regarding employers who use and exploit undocumented workers for example plunged over the past four years prior to Covid-19? Is this due to DHA not having enough money to fund compliance activity due tp it being wasted on other ‘priorities’ or is the Department fearful of a backlash from farm lobby groups? Doesn’t the decline in immigration compliance activity send a signal to employers that they can exploit migrant workers with impunity? Doesn’t this undermine the opportunity of Australians to access farm jobs in particular?
Humanitarian Program and Settlement Services
Why was the Humanitarian Program ceiling reduced from more than 18,000 to 13,750? What does that reduction mean in terms of Australia’s standing as a lead nation in re-settling refugees? What happened to the budget savings claimed from the reduced program? Were they re-invested into better settlement services or into other DHA priorities? What were those other priorities?
Rise of Far Right Neo-Nazi and White Supremacist Groups
ASIO has advised that about 40 per cent of its resources are now devoted to dealing with such groups. Canada has listed at least one of these groups as a terrorist organisation. Why has Australia not listed any of these organisations? What steps are we taking to reduce the spread of their ideology? Where do we stand on the development and implementation of an anti-racism strategy?