House of Representatives 29/11/2021
Mr KHALIL (Wills) (11:49): I rise to speak in support of the member for North Sydney’s motion recognising the vital contribution temporary visa holders have made to this country. But I think it’s a bit rich coming from the Morrison government. Let’s not forget that they have abandoned temporary visa holders and workers and international students at every stage of this pandemic. It was this Morrison government that told temporary visa holders to go home when the pandemic hit, it was this Morrison government that left temporary visa holders out of the financial support packages during the many lockdowns we have all experienced, and it was this Morrison government that ignored their pleas for help—and now they have the gall to move this motion! The government must think Australians have the memories of goldfish. It was this Morrison government that left temporary visa holders out of the financial support packages during the many lockdowns we’ve all experienced. And it was this Morrison government that ignored their pleas for help. And now they have the gall to move this motion. The government must think Australians have the memories of goldfish.
But I can speak, and I will speak, for the many temporary visa holders in my electorate who reached out to me. Trust me: they won’t forget. They won’t forget missing meals to survive. They won’t forget being out of work. They won’t forget not being able to pay their rent. They won’t forget the pleas for help that they made that fell on deaf ears, the support that they asked for from this government. They won’t forget that they were ignored by the Morrison government. What this motion and this Morrison government also hide is the disingenuous nature of the migration policy, which is increasing temporary work visas at the cost of permanent migration, which has effectively built this country post World War II. As a nation we have a history of welcoming migrants and asking them to join us—not just temporarily but as new Australian citizens. Yet for eight years the Morrison government have moved by stealth to a guest worker model. While they ensure that we reap the benefits of economic growth that are a result of migration, they haven’t given the migrants the other end of the equation—the long-term settlement and citizenship that come with permanent migration.
This government needs to be called out for its policy, which is at best confused but at worst deliberately misleading the public. Temporary migration has, and will have, its place if we have a genuine skills shortage, as we have had in the past. But it’s also plagued by wage theft, breaches of workplace rights and poor conditions for workers. Pre COVID, a government report suggested as many as 50 per cent of temporary migrant workers were being underpaid in their employment. That is unacceptable. Every worker in Australia, no matter their circumstance—Australian citizen or international student—deserves the same rights at work. They deserve the same conditions and to be paid fairly at award rates. Increasing temporary visas by offsetting drops in permanent migration has been the policy of this government, breaking the immigration model at the heart of our success as a nation post World War II.
During the last election campaign the Prime Minister announced a congestion-busting reduction in our net migration, from 190,000 to 160,000. But, while he reduced permanent migration, he increased temporary work visas, and the estimates are that some 87 per cent of those temporary work visas are held by people who live in Melbourne and Sydney. So much for congestion busting. These temporary work visa holders are not brought here under the permanent migration policy, which has the primary goal of adding new citizens to our nation, with all that commitment entails. What this Morrison government is doing is appealing to those who still hold fears that migrants will steal our jobs.
I have long called for us to again embrace permanent skilled migration. It’s Australia’s history of permanent skilled migration that has made us one of the most economically prosperous and successful multicultural nations in the world. Immigrants like my parents from Egypt, and millions just like them, built the social and cultural capital that we have drawn from to become a successful nation. These are migrants who became new Aussies not just for a few years but to start new lives, for the rest of their lives.
If the Prime Minister wants more citizens contributing to our nation’s success, he should increase permanent skilled migration rather than reduce it. The road out of COVID-19 gives us a chance to rethink as a nation. We have the chance to show vision and leadership. We have the chance to renew our commitment to permanent skilled migration and the welcoming of new Australians to this country to help rebuild and reconstruct this nation after what we’ve been through in the past two years. That’s something that we have a vision for on this side of the House.