What does Albanese’s win mean for multicultural Australia?
The Labor Party’s win in the 2022 federal election is being welcomed by most multicultural groups and communities around the country.
More refugee places, a revamped immigration program and an end to temporary protection visas were among the ALP’s pre-election policies. But perhaps the new government’s most emblematic move was the release from home detention of the Murugappan family, which allows them to return to the Queensland town of Biloela.
Labor made immigration reform a key plank in its election policy agenda, vowing to end the nation’s dependence on short-term visa holders and make it easier for foreign workers to become permanent residents.
The then opposition immigration spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said the re-opening of Australia’s international borders presented a golden opportunity to overhaul the country’s migration system and reduce the reliance on temporary workers to fill skills shortages – so more permanent skilled migration likely.
The new government has also said it will increase Australia’s annual refugee intake to 27,000 per year as well as progressively increasing the community sponsored refugee program intake to 5,000 places per year.
It has promised to facilitate opportunities for business, community groups, individuals and State, Territory and local governments to participate in and support the resettlement of refugees through a community sponsored refugee resettlement program. These places will be in addition to the existing refugee and humanitarian program.
The Labor Party says it will abolish temporary protections visas (TPVs) and SHEVs and transition eligible refugees onto permanent visa arrangements.
It says asylum seekers will have means-tested access to funded migration assistance, and to appropriate social services, including income, crisis housing, healthcare, mental health, community, education and English language support during the assessment of their claims for protection.
Labor also says it will reintroduce the appropriate references to the Refugee Convention into the Migration Act 1958 aimed at ensuring what it says are fair and consistent outcomes, including access to review and independent advice.
The assessment and review of protection claims of specific lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer asylum seekers will also become part of the asylum system.
Labor has also promised to reinstate the Refugee Review Tribunal and abolish the fast-track Process and Immigration Assessment Authority.
It says it will maintain the policy of mandatory detention, including children, but will attempt to implement legislation to ensure that mandatory detention of unauthorised arrivals is for no longer than 90 days.
The new government says it will appoint an independent children’s advocate to represent the interests of children seeking asylum and legislating to impose mandatory reporting of child abuse.
Meanwhile, Labor’s 2021 Multicultural Statement stresses the importance of inclusion, participation and settlement. It says Labor will listen to multicultural communities and responding to their concerns.
The report focuses on business, recommending more support for diverse communities in the areas of small business, entrepreneurship and innovation, noting that migrants and refugees were twice as likely as other Australians to start a business.
It also commits a Labor government to improve access to government services, especially COVID-related information and services; and also a whole of government strategy for translations and a roadmap for digital government services tailored for diverse communities.
The report also promises one-to-one in person assistance for each essential service and a nuanced CALD workforce strategy and it commits to tackle a rise in racism and right-wing extremism that poses a potential threat to the safety of CALD communities.
Launching the report late last year new Prime Minister Leader Anthony Albanese said he realised Labor needed to listen to communities to formulate policy and commissioned the taskforce as a result.
“We asked why Australia was the most successful multicultural country in the world and we asked: what can we do better? The report is the culmination of that work,” he said.
Mr Albanese said multicultural communities have “contributed so much to what we now call modern Australia”.
He said Labor’s tradition of supporting multiculturalism goes back 1973 and the Racial Discrimination Act – but that there have been recent attempts to weaken it.
“I want to not just defend multiculturalism but step forward, embrace and take advantage and benefit from it,” Mr Albanese said.
“There is an opportunity for Australia to become a microcosm and example for the world of how – with a diversity of backgrounds, ethnicities or religions, and with respect for each other – we can all be enriched.
“What the report does is look at CALD communities and engage with them. We asked: ‘what improvements can be made’. We came up with recommendations that will be turned into practical policies.
“National governments should work with organisations and the leaders of communities to benefit those communities and therefore the whole country.
“With the exception of our first nation peoples, we are all or the sons or daughters of migrants. We’ve built a great nation founded on multiculturalism but we can do better.
“We plan to reach out to established and emerging communities to develop a more inclusive society, a fairer society and forward-looking society. That is our challenge,” Mr Albanese said.