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Thursday, 20 June 2013
Page: 6444

Mr TUDGE (Aston) (09:26): In continuing from last night, I rise to speak on the Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Bill 2013. Last night I said that I thought this was a disgraceful bill. It is a disgraceful bill because it is deliberately designed to crack down on what has been a successful program to date and there is no evidence that it has not been successful or has been rorted. Secondly, this is a disgraceful bill because it shatters the decades-long bipartisan support for skilled migration into this country.

I believe, and I said this last night, that good members of the Labor Party would be deeply embarrassed and indeed be ashamed about this bill. They would be ashamed because it actually abandons the values that they have held for a long time. They would be ashamed because it abandons the bipartisan support for skilled migration that has been so central to the economic and social success of this nation. I know that members on the other side of this chamber, such as Martin Ferguson, Robert McClelland, Simon Crean and even the former minister for immigration, Chris Bowen, would never have put forward a bill such as this one. I do not think that when it comes to voting on this bill they on the other side of the chamber will feel very proud at all that they will have to line up and vote for this disgraceful bill that has been put forward.

The bill itself is designed to completely strangle the 457 visa program in red tape. That is what it is designed to do. Make no bones about it. If there are visa rorts in this program then let us deal with them. Of course, Australians should get the jobs first and that should always be the case, but this is not about that. This bill is actually all about delivering for the unions because they have requested this bill be rushed into this parliament in the dying days of this government. We all know that if the unions say to the Labor Party, 'Jump,' then the Labor Party will say, 'How high?' They cannot bring this bill in quickly enough. I am sure they will attempt to guillotine it through this parliament later on today.

Why has the government said that we need this legislation which cracks down on 457 visas? Why have they said we need this? In essence they have given two reasons. The first is because they say the 457 visa program has been extensively rorted. The minister for immigration even gave a figure. He said that 10,000 visas have been rorted, which would constitute almost 10 per cent of the program. If that was the case, then, yes, we absolutely need to get on top of this program. But was there any evidence for this 10,000 figure? No, there was no evidence. Where did this figure come from? It transpired, after he announced this figure, that he had actually just made it up. That is right: he made up this figure and the immigration department officials, some of whom are in this chamber today, confirmed this to the Senate estimates. They said that they provided no such advice and could not provide any evidence to support that number.

When Tony Sheldon, a union leader, was asked how many 457 visa complaints he had received over the past 12 months—Tony Sheldon has been on this campaign to abolish the 457 visa program, or at least to crack down on it—do you know how many he said? Twenty-four. He had 24 in 12 months. So he is one of the key leaders out there saying, 'This is an outrage; it's being rorted on a daily basis,' and he has had 24 complaints. How many did he report to the immigration department? Zero. Twenty-four complaints, zero reported to the immigration department, and the immigration minister is running around saying there are 10,000 that have been rorted. It is a disgraceful, despicable act of this minister, who does not deserve to be in that high office.

The second reason the government has given for needing to crack down on the 457 visa process is they say there has been excessive growth in this program. They say we need to crack down on it because if there is excessive growth, then maybe it is out of control. Again, let us have a look at the numbers. What has been the growth rate between last year and this year? It has been 1.7 per cent. That constitutes 940 more visa holders this year versus last year. Nine hundred and forty, and they have the gall to come in and try to pass this bill because of that. About 940 people come in illegally on boats every few days, but they do not worry about that. But 940 additional applications this year compared to last year, and apparently that is a catastrophe.

We know what the Prime Minister said last year. Last year it was all hunky dory, all absolutely perfect because the Prime Minister herself said:

I believe we've got the visa settings right … with short-term 457 visas.

That was 12 months ago. The Prime Minister herself said that. But we have had 940 additional visa applications and apparently we need to completely crack down on this very successful program. Of course, if you were concerned about the rorting going on in the program—and if there is rorting, let us absolutely deal with it—you would not cut the compliance costs by 30 per cent, which is what this government have done since they came to office. They have cut the compliance cost by 30 per cent. This is not about dealing with rorts; this is squarely about dealing with an issue that the unions want. And when the unions want something, this government delivers.

My final point is that this is gross hypocrisy because we all know the Prime Minister herself employs a person on a 457 visa who did not go through their proposed process. (Time expired)