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Labor doubles down on immigration promises

30 March 20230 comments

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has vowed to speed up visa processing while also creating stronger pathways to permanent residency.

In a major speech to the Law Council of Australia Mr Giles also promised to strengthen visa review processes.

“A migration system collapsing under the weight of nine years of neglect, a department picked apart, and a drift towards temporary visas leaving individuals, families and business with a sense of uncertainty,” was how he characterised Australia’s immigration system at the start of the Labor government’s term.

“This Government understands that administering the law responsibly begins with processing visas in a timely manner,” Mr Giles said.

“When we came to Government, there were almost one million visas waiting for us in the Department’s in-tray.

“We often hear about the economic impacts of this – but as I’m sure many of you know all too well, the social and human impacts were just as severe. Families separated from loved ones.

“Permanent visa applicants left in limbo, unable to get a loan to buy a house or start their own business. Local businesses forced to close their doors because of workforce shortages,” Mr Giles told the Law Council.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic was a missed opportunity to overhaul Australia’s immigration system ahead of ahead of the inevitable rush of visa applications once the borders opened.

“By leaving almost one million visa applications undecided by the middle of last year, the former government abrogated this duty,” Mr Giles said.

“Whether the outcome of a visa application is to grant or refuse, it is incumbent on government to act responsibly and facilitate the visa application process. That is fundamental.

“A migration system that leaves people in limbo undermines the integrity that our migration system should be built upon.

“A migration system that facilitates this human uncertainty reduces Australia’s attractiveness on the world stage and harms our national interest.

“This Government is committed to restoring a migration system founded on integrity and certainty,” he said.

Mr Giles said this amounted to the hiring of more than 580 staff members in visa processing roles and the finalisation of more than 5.4 million temporary and migration visas by the end of February.

“The visa backlog has been reduced, down from almost one million to under 600,000,” he said.

Temporary skilled visas, filling critical workforce shortages in teaching and care sectors, are being finalised in a matter of days, he said.

Mr Giles said pathways to permanency were critical to a successful and attractive migration system.

“We have to reshape our migration system into one that is fit for purpose and acknowledges that Australia is in a global race for talent,” he said.

“A pathway to permanency is paramount if we want to continue to attract the world’s best and brightest to call Australia home.”

Mr Giles also stressed the importance of a fair review system.

“Good migration outcomes rely on not only efficient visa processing, but a Department that makes consistent, accurate visa decisions,” he said.

“The importance of adequate resourcing of the Department cannot be overstated in ensuring proper public administration of our migration system, nor can our support of the people who undertake this important work.”

“As a result of a decade of political appointments the reputation of the AAT has been eroded. Justice delayed is justice denied.

“And justice delayed is the story right across the Tribunal… and is one of the reasons why the Attorney General made the decision to abolish the AAT.

“We will establish a new administrative review body that is efficient, accessible, and independent,” he said.

Mr Giles said perceptions of Australia’s immigration system would affect the nation’s reputation and standing in the world.

“With more than two million people in the world estimated to be in urgent need of resettlement this year, we also need to work together to advance our Convention obligations,” he said.

“We need to both recognise, and respond to, the threats to a cooperative international response that is commensurate with the reality of the displacement crisis.

“Importantly, we must also recognise that in the Australian context, our capacity to get the policy responses right has been deliberately diminished- through a recourse to cheap, divisive and misleading slogans. And even through introducing such terms into legislation.

“But this Government has been taking a different approach. Working towards ending this pointless and destructive race to the bottom, that has diminished us.

“I believe that we can maintain a secure border, and offer compassion to those forced to flee their homes.

“And that we can play a positive role in building a stronger global protection and resettlement framework,” Mr Giles said.