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Thursday, 28 June 2018
Page: 6879


Mr HILL (Bruce) (11:00): I've spoken before, and I need to speak again, about the shocking crisis that is the delay in citizenship applications that we're seeing. We've had private members' motions. We've had the issue raised in adjournment and grievance debates, and other statements to the House. I've lost track of how many letters we've sent to the minister, and the garbage we get back. But even I was shocked at the responses to the questions on notice that I received last week, where, finally, the government fessed up that this is now affecting hundreds of thousands of Australian residents. For three months, I didn't get answers to the questions, but they did come last week—and it is an unbelievable mess. I'd also note that I've spent time reconciling the answers received last week from Minister Tudge with those received from Minister Dutton, and this is showing all the signs now of a cover-up between the two ministers, and I'll explain why.

The numbers are important. When this government came to power, it had 20,000 to 30,000 people in the citizenship queue—so, about 20,000 to 30,000 a year. In 2015-16 that went up towards 50,000. In 2016-17 it hit 106,000. The latest figures provided, as at the end of February, are that 188,848 people, permanent residents of this country, are waiting for their citizenship applications to be processed. When you pro rata that for the year, the government are on track to have, by the end of this week, 283,272 applications hanging around in the minister's black hole of a department. That's a 10-times blowout of the queue since they came to office.

These are not just numbers. These are people, permanent residents, living in Australia for years, working and paying taxes. They're parents, workers and carers. They've fallen in love. They've married Australians. They've come here on skilled visas, business visas, humanitarian visas and spouse visas—you name it. They are people who want to formalise their commitment to this country. We should expect them to do so if they've been living here for that long. We should expect it and we should welcome it.

The impact of the delay in human terms is appalling. Citizenship delays are one of the big four, as we call them in my electorate office: Centrelink stuff-ups, NBN stuff-ups, migration problems and citizenship problems. They are now the bread-and-butter issues in my electorate. Every week, in the foyer of my office, we have grown men crying. That is not an exaggeration. They come in in a state of hopelessness and despair—

Mr Evans interjecting

Mr HILL: You may laugh, Member for Brisbane, but I challenge you to come to the office and look into the eyes of the man who's been here for 10 years without the ability to go home, without the ability to see his family, without the ability to study and to complete his degree. You may think that's funny; I do not. It is disgusting. It is absolutely disgusting. How can you honestly defend a system where, in a government department, you have 288,000 pieces of paper queued up, with no end in sight?

What we get told by the minister is that this is a caseload issue. Well, put some more resources on it. We get told there's an identity issue. Most of them are not complex; they're routine. Then we get told it's a security issue. They live here. They are permanent residents who live here. If they're so bloody dangerous, why don't you just chuck them out—or process their citizenship applications? Is it incompetence? It could be, when you have a look at the performance of the minister's department. It could be cruelty, with Hanson having come into the parliament. It could be disenfranchisement, a secret agenda, or part of your agenda to create a two-class society of people living in Australia but never being able to fully participate as Australians. You're happy to take their labour, you're happy to see them exploited in the workplace, you're happy to take their taxes, but you won't let them formalise their commitment to this country. Shame on you.

Most vulnerable workers in Australia—indeed, all Australians who migrated here—learnt last year what you really think of them, with your racist university-level English language test. And, yes, I say 'racist' because of the little carve-out for the Anglosphere—your much beloved Anglosphere. If you come from a white country, that's okay; you don't have to sit the test. If you come from anywhere else, university-level English grammar for you. Disgusting! There's real anger by Chinese Australians in particular. They know now that the Liberal Party wants to stop Chinese people from coming to Australia or becoming Australians. You're happy to line them up at your donor functions with the election on the rise, telling them how much you love Chinese Australians. You'll take their money, but you won't let them become Australians. Well, they're warming up to you.

The final thing I'd note is there's a worrying sign of a cover-up. In a 2016 Federal Court case, Minister Dutton's evidence was: 'There are 10,000 applications that require thorough analysis or further assessment.' He said the same thing in an answer to me on 9 May 2017. Yet last week Minister Tudge suddenly claimed:

The department does not attribute applications into broad designations or categories as indicated in the question.

What's going on? It stinks like a cover-up, and if it's not you should fix it. (Time expired)