SENATOR THE HON KRISTINA KENEALLY
DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP
SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES
FRIDAY, 6 SEPTEMBER 2019
SUBJECTS: Biloela family; Peter Dutton failing to address 81,000 airplane arrivals; drug testing of welfare recipients.
KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: In regard to the Tamil family from Biloela, since last night, we have seen the Government brief out to no less than three media agencies that the family could apply for a work visa, that they could have the wait time for that visa waived, in fact, they could have the costs that might accompany that application waived. Now these aren't my sources, these are the Government sources that are briefing this out to media organisations, and for the Government to be putting this out through their sources – to be dangling an opportunity – if it's not real is, quite frankly, just cruel. It is a cruel political ploy unless it's backed up by a guarantee.
So it's time for the Government to stop dangling promises briefed-out through media organisations that this family – Nades, Priya and their two children – could come back to Australia through a work visa, unless the Government is prepared to stand up today and confirm that the bar that could be applied to that application will be lifted by the Government, that the costs that could be levied against the family will be waived, and that the waiting times that could be applied to such an application would be waived by the Government. The Prime Minister Scott Morrison can come out today and make that clear. Enough of this briefing out through media organisations, enough of this dangling opportunities without confirming them. Today the Prime Minister Scott Morrison can come out and make clear that his Government will not put barriers, and will not apply barriers, to Nades, Priya and their children applying for that visa category. Now, of course, the Government – either the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, or the Minister for Immigration, David Coleman, or even the Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton – could make a decision today to bring this whole process to an end by simply applying the discretion that is allowed for in the Migration Act.
The Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton has applied that discretion some 4000 times at a rate of nearly three times a day. So if it is good enough for the Minister to make those discretionary decisions on 4000 other occasions, it is up to the Government to explain why they won't make that discretion today. If they choose not to do so, then they need to confirm that what they're briefing out to media organisations is true and that is that the family won't have unnecessary delays and costs put in front of them in order to apply to come back to Biloela – the community that loves them and wants them to come home. I'm happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Senator, just yesterday, Scott Morrison was in Adelaide saying that his Government is remaining consistent, that is what Australians expected him – according to him, and he says that on this sort of issue, Labor continues to flip-flop. What would you say to that?
KENEALLY: Well, consistency is a hard thing for a Government to hang on to when Peter Dutton is making over 4000 discretionary decisions under the Migration Act when he is doing it at a rate of three times a day. This Government doesn't hesitate to use its discretion – that is lawfully accorded under the Migration Act – when it suits them. And indeed, Peter Dutton has made that very discretionary decision to allow an asylum seeker who was on Nauru to come to Australia and settle in Australia. And now that is a decision that Peter Dutton made; in that circumstance, it didn't restart the boats. Medevac, by the way, doesn't restart the boats. The boats are an ever-present threat and the way that you stop boats is by having a robust presence in source countries. Right now, the Federal Government only have four AFP officers in source countries in our region. They have reduced to the number of AFP officers. They have to Cape Class patrol boats that are sitting in-dock in Western Australia unable to go out because the Government doesn't have the resources to crew them. They are literally sitting there in dock. So if a government is serious about stopping the boats, they have a robust presence in source countries, and they have the boats that the taxpayers paid for out doing the work that they are meant to be doing – these Cape Class patrol boats.
Finally, if a government is serious about stopping a flow of people coming to Australia, then it would be doing something about airplane arrivals. 81,000 people have come through Australia's airports and sought asylum. 90 per cent of them are found not to be refugees, yet while they are here they are being exploited. They are being used by labour hire companies to work in exploitative conditions. Sometimes in sexual servitude, sometimes in conditions that are close to slavery. They're working in horticulture and hospitality, and Peter Dutton has failed to notice that criminal syndicates, that people smugglers, have shifted their business model from boats to planes. If the Government was serious about securing our borders, they would be speaking up and taking action to stop these criminal syndicates exploiting people, trafficking people here to work in exploitative conditions. And you know why this is happening? Because under Peter Dutton's watch, the processing times for all categories of visas have simply just blown-out. Two-to-four years to get an asylum claim assessed and that's people who turn up at airports with papers. We're talking about two years for spouse visas, one-to-two years for citizenship applications. It's that explosion in the processing time that is providing the opportunity for people smugglers to send people here on visas, get them to claim asylum, and then having them work for two-to-four years in exploitative conditions on bridging visas before their claims are determined. As I said, 90 per cent are found not to be refugees. Peter Dutton has failed to notice what's how happening at our nation's airports. Are there any other questions on the Biloela Tamil? Okay.
JOURNALIST: Drug testing for welfare recipients. Richard Marles has said Labor might consider supporting it; Linda Burney doesn't support it. What's your view?
KENEALLY: Well, quite clearly this is a bill that the Government failed to get through the last Senate. This is a trial that really does not need to be done. We have seen in overseas jurisdictions there is evidence that this approach does not work and frankly, this is a blunt instrument applied to a specific problem. Understand that this will apply to everyone on Newstart. One out of every four people on Newstart is over the age of 55. Are we really as a country going to start asking the grandparents of Australia, in order to get their pension and their social security payments, to go into a small room and urinate in a cup to prove that they have never taken drugs? That's what this bill seeks to do. Now, of course, Labor will consider the legislation through our Caucus and Shadow Cabinet processes when it's presented to us. What we know from this Government is when they don't have an economic plan for the country, when they aren't doing anything about wage stagnation or the rising cost of living, what do they do? They reach into their back pocket and they pull out the legislation they failed to get through the last Parliament and they have another go. That's because they don't have anything new to say. They have a political strategy; they don't have an economic plan. So they can put this legislation forward, we'll consider it through our usual processes but as Linda Burney has pointed out, and as Richard Marles pointed out this morning, there's a lot of evidence to show this kind of approach is not effective.
JOURNALIST: Senator, would you as a Member of Parliament be happy to be drug tested at work?
KENEALLY: Of course. Anything else? Great. Thank you. Thanks, folks.
SENATOR THE HON KRISTINA KENEALLY