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Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Page: 6364


Mr TUDGE (Aston) (18:51): I would also like to speak strongly against the Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Bill 2013 that is in front of us this evening. This is a disgraceful bill that true Labor members on the other side of this chamber—the true ones, the good ones, and even the Simon Creans who are over there listening to this debate—should be ashamed of. I do not believe that if Simon Crean were leader of the Labor Party, or if he was the immigration minister at this time, he would put through a bill such as this one. This is all about protecting union mates and flies in the face of everything that we have done in this country for the last few decades on a bipartisan basis to try to attract skilled migrants. I do not believe a Simon Crean would do this and I think that, deep down, he is embarrassed about this bill in front of us.

I would commend the fine words of the member for Kooyong in the speech immediately before me. He outlined the case incredibly well as to why this bill is the wrong bill to be introducing into this parliament. He outlined the two reasons it is being introduced. Firstly, it is to be a distraction from the disgraceful, chaotic and wasteful border protection regime that they have in place, which is seeing thousands of boats coming to this place on a regular basis now. They want a distraction from this and this bill is designed to provide that.

The second reason they introduced this bill is because the unions have demanded it. They have demanded it of this Prime Minister and of this new immigration minister, and therefore the Prime Minister and the immigration minister are rushing it into this parliament. When the unions demand something of this government, it cannot be done quickly enough for them. It is funny, because with the border protection regime we had, the Houston inquiry made a series of recommendations—one of which was to excise the mainland—and that recommendation was made many, many months ago.

What did the minister do in relation to that recommendation? He just sat on it. He did not rush to go ahead with it to deal with the matter at hand as recommended by their own expert panel. He sat on it for absolutely months. But what do they do when the unions demand that we crack down on the 457 visas? Straightaway we had better get on with the job and fix it up because the unions have demanded that we crack down on 457 visas. If the unions demand that this Labor government does something, they will immediately rush into this parliament and legislate to fix up those things which the unions say need fixing. Imagine if the unions said that we really need to stop the boats. Perhaps they would introduce some serious measures to stop the boats. Imagine if the unions said that we need to get control of the borders. Imagine if the unions said, yes, we actually need to bring the surplus into the budget—

The SPEAKER: And I am imagining some relevance to the bill before the House as well!

Mr TUDGE: perhaps we would actually have a balanced budget for the first time, Madam Speaker. Perhaps for the first time in 23 years under a Labor government we would have a balanced budget if the unions demanded it. That is why we are dealing with this bill now.

The reasons that they put forward for introducing this bill are, frankly, farcical. They have given two reasons why we need to be cracking down on 457 visas. The first is that the system has been rorted. There are 108,000 people on 457 visas, and the minister said about a month ago that this is being seriously rorted by employers to the extent that almost 10 per cent of those visas have been falsely given—they have been rorted by employers. He gave the figure of 10,000 people who should not be in this country because they have falsely been given a 457 visa—10,000 people.

But as the member for Kooyong said, where did this number come from? Apparently it is a very good figure according to the member for Werriwa—or was it the member for Holt who pointed this out?—he just dreamt this figure up. There is no evidence that there have been 10,000 rorts, none whatsoever. He dreamt this figure up. It was disgraceful to reduce the legitimacy of the 457 visa system, a system that has worked incredibly well to date, even according to the Prime Minister's own words. Even according to the Prime Minister's own words, the system has been working incredibly well. But he dreams of this figure of 10,000 rorts one day and then cannot substantiate it. But it is on the basis of this figure that we are actually introducing this bill today to add all sorts of red tape and all sorts of obligations upon employers to exercise their right to issue 457 visas for a highly skilled worker to come into this country.

The other reason they gave for needing to introduce this bill to crack down upon 457 visas is because they said, 'Well, look at the excessive growth of the 457 visa regime.' Okay, let us have a look at it. Let us have a look at the evidence. The evidence is that there has only been 1.7 per cent growth this year in 457 visas issued. Do you know how many visas that translates to? It is 940. Do you know how many people come in on a boat each day—about 100 or 150, 200? This would be less than a week's worth of boat people, but that is the growth that we have had in the 457 visa category this year and that is the figure which they are saying is so outrageous that we need to be introducing this bill this evening as an emergency measure to be passed before this parliament rises because, apparently, there has been a 1.7 per cent growth. It is a disgrace, and some of the sensible members sitting over there—Mr Fitzgibbon and, as I said, the member for Holt—are ashamed of this bill that has been put before us.

Only 940 visas have been introduced above and beyond last year's measures, and last year of course was when the Prime Minister herself famously said that she believed they had 'these settings right, particularly with short-term 457 visas'. That was last year. That was 12 months ago that the Prime Minister herself, Julia Gillard said—and I notice that the Labor members have gone quiet when I quote Julia Gillard from 12 months ago—'I believe we have got the visa settings right, particularly with short-term 457 visas.' So we have had a 1.7 per cent growth since that time and that apparently has caused a catastrophe. Those additional 940 people we have had through the 457 visa process, those skilled workers working in our hospitals, in government departments and sometimes in the unions, and indeed in the Prime Minister's office, are apparently causing this catastrophe so that we have to rush this bill through and strangle the 457 visa process.

The other issue of course is that there has been no consultation in relation to this bill. In some respects we should not be surprised because they are almost not consulting at all on any measure that they are introducing into this parliament at the moment. But this measure however has such a significant impact—

Debate interrupted.