Federation Chamber 5/09/2022
Mr KHALIL (Wills) (10:54): Last week the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs made an important announcement: the Albanese Labor government will invest $36.1 million into visa processing to clear the backlog, to decrease waiting times and to welcome more people who decide to call Australia home. This investment will surge staff capacity by 500 people over the next nine months to address the crisis crippling our visa system. When the Albanese government was elected in May, nearly a million visa applications were awaiting processing. The previous government, the Liberal government, cut resourcing, drove department culture into the ground and intentionally slowed down processing times. They knew that, the harder and longer they made the process, the longer people would be living in limbo and uncertainty away from their loved ones. The longer businesses and workers couldn’t make decisions, the more likely people would be to give up. What has this gotten us? We have a visa-processing system in crisis. We are facing critical skills shortages and lagging in the competition to attract talent, and we have a reputation unbefitting a proud multicultural nation built off the back of generations of migration.
We are already addressing this issue. In the short time we’ve been in government, we have already cleared 100,000 applications. Last week the Minister for Home Affairs announced an increase of approximately 35,000 additional permanent skilled migrants, lifting the annual cap to 195,000 places. This means more skilled migrants to help fill worker shortages in critical areas like nurses, engineers and tech experts. Wait times are also down. Instead of being 53 days on average, the wait time for a skilled migrant is down to 42 days. Instead of 37 days for new businesses for sponsorship, it’s now 18 days, less than half the time under the former government. Student wait times are down from 40 days to 31 days. And more than 50 per cent of working holiday visa applications are now finalised within a single day.
What does this mean for Australia? It means that businesses can have certainty and can fill areas of skills shortages quickly. It means that families, some of which have been separated for many years because of the pandemic, can be reunited sooner. It means a boost to our economy, as migration has proven time and time again to create more jobs and investments that benefit all Australians. And it means that we can reclaim the true spirit of the Australian story, as a country that has welcomed people from across the seas, like my parents, who migrated from Egypt and worked hard every day not only to give their children—me and my sister—a better life but to give back to the country that gave them so much. They settled here as permanent migrants, as Australians, as new Australians. This story is common across the country. In my electorate of Wills, communities, whether they be generations of Italians and Greeks or Vietnamese, Lebanese, Iraqi, Indian or Pakistani—people from so many countries around the world—have come here to make a new home. We all know someone who was given the opportunity to call Australia home.