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Wednesday, 30 May 2018
Page: 5061

Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (16:51): I asked the minister to answer my questions in relation to privatisation. I asked him whether he actually watched Senate estimates and saw departmental officials talk about the privatisation that he proposes. Or does he not meet with departmental officials in relation to this issue? The workers are very concerned in relation to privatisation. What element of national security might be compromised by privatisation of the visa processing system? And why has the government put money aside in relation to those issues as well? The minister is not taking any notice of what the department has been saying. So what hidden agenda is there in terms of the privatisation of visa processing arrangements and when are you going to announce those? Can you ensure the 2,000 workers get support in terms of their jobs as well? The minister did not answer any questions I put in relation to the temporary parent arrangement. I would ask that minister to answer those questions.

In June last year, the government tried to change the rules around people acquiring Australian citizenship. Despite proposing some pretty far-reaching and fundamental changes to the basis on which people become Australian citizens, the government couldn't provide any evidence as to why the changes were necessary—none whatsoever. The community opposes this bill. Migrant communities uphill and down dale—from Melbourne, to Sydney, to Brisbane and all around the country—opposed it. It was struck off the Notice Paper by the government in October last year. Over 10,000 submissions were lodged with the inquiry that looked into the citizenship matter, and only two were in favour of the government's proposals—and one of those was from the government's own department. There were 10,000 submissions lodged.

Minister, you talked about reintroducing that legislation, with lower English proficiency needed for applicants to pass the language test. Why hasn't the government provided any evidence, any basis, as to why it is necessary for their unfair citizenship changes to be brought forward? Why haven't you listen to Australians, who have overwhelmingly opposed the proposed changes? Why are you pandering to the hard right in this community, and in your own party, and creating uncertainty for people who want to join our national family?

From March 2016 to April 2018, processing times for citizenship applications have increased from 12 months to 16 months. The department has confirmed this extension of waiting time for applicants and said it hired some staff to assist in processing applications. I dare say there is not a member in this place who wouldn't have experienced those delays in their own electorate. The department has also confirmed that complaints regarding citizenship applications have increased. Why won't the government commit the resources necessary to process these citizenship applications? The delays are causing distress and hurting people who have spent years in Australia studying, working, buying a house, raising children and committing themselves to the Australian family. Minister, why won't you let them commit themselves to a citizenship ceremony and do it now?