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Wednesday, 2 September 2020
Page: 6410

Mr KHALIL (Wills) (16:32): [by video link] I'll pick up where I left off, and that is to ask the government and the minister to do their job, not to go ahead with another dog whistle—this bill—but to do their job in the Home Affairs and Immigration portfolio, because, frankly, they haven't. When you look at the substance, there has been absolute failure. There have been processing delays of years. People are waiting years for their citizenship or their partner visa applications. Waiting times have exploded under this government. With respect to permanent residents going towards citizenship, the government has actively tried to make it harder and make it take longer for people on permanent residency to become citizens. The program makes people choose between parents for parent visas. There was a multimillion-dollar strategic review into the Department of Home Affairs that was finalised last year and never made public. What are they hiding?

We have a Prime Minister who makes a big show, a big song and dance, complaining that Australia is full, saying there's too much congestion in our cities and blaming that on there being too many migrants. He makes a big boast that he reduced permanent migration—and this happened before COVID-19—in order to do congestion busting. In actual fact, under his government and over the seven years of the coalition government, those opposite have increased temporary migration. There are 2.2 million people in this country on temporary work visas, 87 per cent of whom are in Melbourne and Sydney. So this government has increased temporary visas and then claims it is busting congestion by reducing permanent migration.

So while the Minister for Home Affairs laments the strain on our capital city infrastructure—and, by the way, they should probably invest more in infrastructure, which is absolutely necessary—and talks about overcrowding, his own department and the Prime Minister are contributing to that strain by increasing temporary migration while undermining our proud history of the strong permanent migration program that has been the basis of the economic, social and cultural success of this country post-World War II. We need a recommitment to that permanent skilled migration because it's about making sure that people come here, become Australians and want to become Australians. Many people on temporary migrant visas want to do that as well. They should be given that opportunity rather than being delayed and blocked by this government.

On the treatment of refugees in this country, we saw the department under the Minister for Home Affairs repeal medevac after the election. This was an attempt to ban those who arrive by boat from ever setting foot in Australia. This was another of the bills which they tried to put up. Even if they were a tourist or a spouse, apparently they were going to be banned. I recall how ridiculous that was when I and the Labor Party opposed that at the time. A refugee who might end up in New Zealand and potentially become a minister in the New Zealand government would be banned from ever arriving in Australia. This is how ridiculous their overreach is. This is how they're not doing their job. Effectively, what they're doing is dog whistling and trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator through this portfolio.

Australia is a successful multicultural country. It is a reality of Australia that we are diverse and we are multicultural. This government should actually be promoting the fact that we have been world leaders in generations past in welcoming both migrants and refugees. We are a successful multicultural nation and we should be celebrating this success rather than trying to suppress it. We need an Australian government that embraces and recognises the strength of multicultural Australia instead of punishing and demonising those who have come here seeking a better life.

The government needs to rethink this bill based on the suggestions that Labor through our shadow minister for home affairs has put to the government in writing, although I won't hold my breath that they will reconsider. We oppose this bill for the reasons I've articulated: the human rights issues, yes; and the further power grab by an out-of-control and unchecked Minister for Home Affairs, yes. But this is also because it's the latest in a long, sad line of attempted legislation that has at its core—and there's no other way to describe it—political skulduggery, pathetic wedge politics and dog whistling clothed in the fake solemnity of national security. It is nothing of the sort. It is, however, an appeal to the lowest common denominator: fear. It is indicative of their go-to political weapons: fear and the demonisation of the most vulnerable into the bad guys that we should all fear. All of this is just to score political points.

That is not leadership. It is not looking after the substantive national security issues and policies needed within this portfolio. It is instead the politics of division. It seeks, by its very nature, to divide us. This government and this minister have a dismal track record of using all the usual tropes of ethnic and sectarian difference to sow discord while pretending they're protecting us from threats unseen. It is a direct threat to the social cohesion that we have built up over decades in this country. It's another terrible attempt at fear for votes that only further diminishes our well-earned and fought-for social cohesion. For these reasons, as well as for the substantive reasons that I've outlined, Labor and I oppose this bill.