Opinion pieces, speeches & transcripts

Transcript: ABC Radio Hobart

October 10, 2019



SUBJECTS: Visa privatisation; FECCA Conference; AFL Tasmania.

LUCY BREADEN: The Federal Opposition says 100 Tasmanians who work on visa processing stand to lose their jobs under the government’s push to privatise this system. Andrew Giles is the Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Shadow Minister Assisting for Immigration and Citizenship thank you very much for coming in Andrew Giles.


BREADEN: The Federal Government is planning on outsourcing the processing of visa applications to a private company, what would this mean?

GILES: Well this could mean that 2,000 Australians, including about 100 people in Hobart would lose their jobs. These are really hard-working public servants who do important work and take great pride in it. They take their job very seriously, because it goes to really fundamental questions of who comes to Australia and what conditions we place on them coming here. It also means in terms of the system of how immigration systems function – of getting the government out of the way – and having a business with a profit motive involved is something we are worried about. We think that deciding on who comes to Australia is a core function of government and not something that a corporate interest should be connected to directly.

BREADEN: So would they ultimately be deciding who comes?

GILES: Well, they would be conducting the processing and that’s where our concern lies and what we really think is that these are skilled jobs, they’re important skilled jobs and they should be conducted by APS public servants who have all the conditions and all the background and the confidence to make decisions through that frame – not be swayed by commercial interests – they should be acting in the national interest.

BREADEN: Is there any chance that this could be stopped? Is it too late to turn it around?

GILES: I don’t think it is too late. This is the second time that I’ve been here in Hobart on this issue. The first time really to listen to the workers and they made an incredibly powerful impression upon me. The Morrison Government have said they’re going to make a decision this month but they haven’t made a decision yet. I say while there’s life there’s hope and I implore the Tasmanian Liberal Senators in particular to think about this means for Hobart, to think about what it means for the sort of country we are. Minister Dutton should do one of two things – to come here and explain to people in Hobart why it’s in the national interest that these jobs be outsourced and the functions outsourced too. Or he could just do the right thing and say he’s not doing to go ahead with this privatisation scheme.

BREADEN: So you talk about there being a possible risk to Australia’s security. What grounds are there?

GILES: Australians are anxious about questions of data security and I think all of us are. Our real concern is that if you take these core functions of government into the private sector – they are obviously taking them over because they’re interested in making a profit and surely one of their interests is making use of the data that comes in and that’s why we’ve written to the ACCC today to say look – apart from all these other concerns that we have there could be real issues with these private consortiums coming in that they may have the ability to misuse their market power. For instance, a big bank is involved in one of the consortiums, an airline is, now we are concerned not just about the data security but on the capacity of private businesses to make use of this information for their own benefit.

BREADEN: So you wrote to the ACCC today?

GILES: We wrote to the ACCC yesterday and I’m hoping the ACCC will use its powers to conduct the investigation and to work out whether these issues are such that they shouldn’t go ahead.

BREADEN: Now this is being done overseas as well?

GILES: Yes, we’ve seen some terrible experiences come out of a similar experiment in the UK. We are seeing there what could happen here - you introduce the profit motive and businesses have got to find a way to make a profit. You also see a two-tiered system so you can have your application fast tracked in return for money. We’ve even seen reports of grants of citizenship in return for very large investments.

BREADEN: They Government says the workers – the 100 workers – who could lose their jobs would be re-deployed elsewhere, surely that is okay?

GILES: One, I’d say those workers would see it very differently and I think it’s important that if the government are going to say that then they should front these people and look them in the eye and their representatives and say exactly how this will be the case. But for these workers Lucy, it’s not just a job it’s howthey define themselves often. And they recognise just how important the work they do is, and quite often in recent weeks we’ve been hearing these stories about the exploitation of some workers on visas, and these workers, the workers that are undertaking the processing work get that, they understand that making the right decision is important and they feel frustrated that they don’t have the support they should have to do that work, and I think what they see is the Government walking away, not just from them, but its responsibility to get this right. 

BREADEN: You’re listening to Drive on ABC Radio Hobart and across Tasmania, its Lucy Breaden here, the time is nineteen past four, and my guest is Andrew Giles, he’s the Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Shadow Minister Assisting for Immigration and Citizenship, and we’re talking about the potential loss of 100 Tasmanian jobs, those people who work on visa processing, within state government. A parliamentary committee, Andrew Giles, is currently looking into outsourcing a range of other government functions, do you think this could be potentially just like a much larger government approach to Commonwealth functions, outsourcing everything?

GILES: Well yeah definitely I was really pleased that the crossbench joined with us to establish this inquiry because I think Australians, and I venture to say I think in particular Tasmanians are really anxious that we have governments which look to privatisation as almost the answer to every question, and we’re seeing so many people who have experience with dealing with government the frustration that privatisation brings, longer wait times, a difficulty in engaging with the person who can solve your problem, and I think it’s really breaking down often the relationship between citizens and government, and I’m really hopeful this inquiry will come to Hobart, and maybe to Launceston too, and hear directly from Tasmanians about what they expect from their national government. On our side of politics we think privatisation has gone too far, and too many aspects of national government have been outsourced and this is a particular aspect where we think frankly it’s the role of government to process visas not the private sector.

BREADEN: Yeah you’re here in Tassie, Hobart, to address the Federation of Ethnic Community Councils of Australia’s National Conference, also known as FECCA I understand which is maybe easier to say, more than four hundred, five hundred delegates there, what was that like?

GILES: Look it was fantastic. There was real energy in the room, and I think I can say they are excited to be in Hobart, it looks pretty nice out of the Grant Chancellor onto the harbour today, and there’s a really important conversation going on about how we can strengthen Australia as a multicultural country, help get better at sharing and understanding the benefits diversity can bring, and they were some of the things I was trying to touch upon. I think for me it was really interesting to hear the different perspectives, and I know an important issue is trying to find ways to make settlement more attractive outside of Melbourne and Sydney, trying to find ways we can bridge skill gaps, and maybe some cultural gaps, in other parts of the country, and to hear people’s experiences, particularly the successful ones its really inspirational.

BREADEN: So I assume that means inviting more people to Tasmania to settle here?

GILES: Well I know there’s always the demand for that, and I think anyone who comes to Hobart thinks about staying longer, I’d like to stay a bit longer today myself. But I think showing off those attributes and those opportunities I think is really important, and that’s why it’s so great that this conference is here today.

BREADEN: Now you can’t deny the fact that Tasmanians love their football, while you were talking to many Tasmanians I understand that was pretty clear that was in the air, what were people saying to you?

GILES: A lot of people are talking about a football team, and I understand that the pledge has now ticked over 50,000, which is a great show of interest and support and hopefully something the AFL will listen to. It’s important having a team in the AFL. But also I think it’s important to appreciate, I mean I get how critical football and netball is particularly in smaller regional communities, and I think about what a shot in the arm having a team and all the pathways and structures that would bring, would be to those smaller football clubs, and to young players.

BREADEN: During the last federal election campaign Bill Shorten promised some dollars towards a Tasmanian AFL team, is that still Labor policy?

GILES: Well look unfortunately we’ve some way to go before the next election, and all those conversations are underway, but I do note that while the present Government were dismissive of this during the election campaign, they seem to have got on board since then with Minister Colbeck talking about this issue, so look I just hope that people will listen to Tasmanians on this question, clearly it’s something that people are talking about, clearly it’s an aspiration that is out there in the community and I think everyone who’s interested in Australian rules football will know how important Tasmania has been to that story and how ridiculous it seems that Tassie at the moment is cut out.

BREADEN: Thanks so much for your time today Andrew Giles.

GILES: Great to be here Lucy.

BREADEN: Andrew Giles there, Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Shadow Minister Assisting for Immigration and Citizenship.ENDS