Opinion pieces, speeches & transcripts

Transcript: Launceston doorstop

October 09, 2019




SUBJECTS: Visa privatisation; citizenship; immigration; Liberal senate team; regional jobs; homelessness.

SENATOR HELEN POLLEY: What I am excited about is the fact that Andrew Giles has come down to Launceston to hear about the concerns around immigration and issues that are affecting our community. And one of the things that I am angry about is the fact that I have a woman who has been in contact with our office who desperately wants to become an Australian citizen and what she has had to go through is just unbelievable. All because of Peter Dutton and his incompetence. This lady and her family have been taxpayers. She has been battling for five years. Five long years to become an Australian citizen. That is unacceptable and it is not right. Andrew has come down to listen to other concerns of people who want to become good Australian citizens and the dilemma we find ourselves in is because of a government that is so arrogant and Peter Dutton who is incompetent as the minister.

ANDREW GILES, SHADOW MINISTER FOR MULTICULTURAL AFFAIRS: Thanks very much Helen it is great to be back in Launceston on such a magnificent day. And I am here really because of the story that Helen has told. The experience of that woman; unfortunately she is not alone. She is one of more than 200,000 people who are desperately waiting to complete their journey to Australia. There are 200,000 people who want to make that commitment to our country final and permanent and they have been delayed unreasonably. Because Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton had a plan to win the election but no plan for our country. I am so pleased that Helen and her office are doing this great work supporting this woman. But we need a government that is prepared to support this woman, prepared to take modern Australia seriously and give people a pathway to citizenship who want it and deserve it. What is worse than this is this situation is compounded by the fact that there is an expected announcement later this month to privatise our Visa processing services, which will lead to the loss of 2,000 Australian jobs, 100 in Tasmania. And this will have huge impacts. It will lead to increased worker exploitation in industries that are so important to northern Tasmania. Like horticulture. It will also impact on our data security and our privacy. These are outrageous decisions symptomatic of an arrogant government that is out of touch. There is one last thing that I want to touch on because there is a lot happening in this town at the moment. And I am also here thanks to Helen to talk about the progress of the Launceston City Deal. While I have been critical of the government in other areas we think the City Deal is a great idea. In fact it was Anthony Albanese's idea when he was the minister to bring forward this concept. But I am here to listen, understand and make it a great deal for Launceston and northern Tasmania. Also, to ask the Tasmanian State Government to do what other state governments are doing, including Liberal state governments which is to call on the Federal Government to bring forward infrastructure spending now. To get our cities moving, particularly here in Launceston to get people into work. Thanks very much.

JOURNALIST: What do you think the main benefit to Launceston will be with the City Deal?

GILES: Look, the plan is really about revitalising the CBD. It is so important to bring forward jobs to the university and connect it to it. To give a real hub for local jobs. We know employment here is a major issue. We also know that private sector investment isn't what it should be. These are really important enablers for Launceston, particularly for jobs for people for northern Tasmania.

JOURNALIST: And on immigration what are some of the benefits we would see if we were to accept more people in?

GILES: Well I think it is in regional centres like Launceston that you really see the benefits of innovation. Benefits of diversity and different ideas. People who are really entrepreneurial and people who are going to make their own way. Set up small businesses as we know, like many migrants do. And I know there is some great work that is being done and I hope to hear about it from the Migrant Resource Centre later today. These are the people that will generate economic activity, that will generate jobs. It will keep this city moving. That is why it is so frustrating to see this happen to people. People who are already here. Paying taxes and contributing but they can't finalise their permanent residency. They can't finalise their commitment to this town and our country.

JOURNALIST: Can we get a bit more information on this woman. Where is she from? And what is her pathway to living in Tasmania?

POLLEY: Her pathway is one that is fairly routine for people who have come to this country and want to make it their home here. But it has just been one obstacle after another. The process to become an Australian citizen should not take 5 years. Can you imagine the extra stress and pressure that this puts on that individual that I cant identify and her family. She wants to be a fully participating member of our community and you can see Launceston has really benefit over the last two decades with an increase in migrants into our community. She could have been processed 3 or 4 years ago. It should not take 5 years and it has still not happened. Now, she was able to come and find us. How many other people within our community don't know that they can reach out, other than going to the Migrant Resource Centre or come to their local politician. Now what we want to see from Bridget Archer as the local member, we want her to go to Peter Dutton and plead to him to do his job so the Tasmanians living here who want to continue to live here, who want to work in our community, who want to become Australian citizens. This is what should be happening. Bridget Archer should be standing up for them.

JOURNALIST: What would a Labor Government do to streamline that process?

GILES: Well obviously we are 3 years away from the next election and the first challenge is to make sure that the current government is held accountable for their decisions. We have always invested in multiculturalism and our citizenship. We would not have devalued our immigration system and its functions. Peter Dutton has set up Home Affairs like his own little empire. Fundamentally I think the point that Senator Polley is making. The request that she is making of the local member to do her job is a reasonable one. We would be listening to people, understanding them and guiding them through the process. Making sure that the hard working men and women in Home Affairs have the resources available to do their jobs. Not have their jobs privatised or sent offshore.

POLLEY: We can't afford to lose 100 employees from Tasmania. Now, this government in the past has championed that they want to take more jobs out into regional Australia. Well, what we should be doing is protecting the jobs that we already have. And then adding to it. So it is not only Bridget Archer that needs to stand up. So does the Liberal Senate Team. Where are they? And why aren't they speaking up and protecting Tasmanian jobs.

JOURNALIST: Hobart City Mission and the Hobart City Council have come up with safe spots for homeless people. I just wanted to know Labor's views on that one.

GILES: Well, I might start from a federal perspective. What we are really concerned about is that in the Hobart City Deal there really hasn't been a plan for housing. We haven't seen any real investment from the Morrison Government or the Turnbull Government or the Abbott Government. In particular providing social housing. It has been at crisis point in Hobart for some time. Obviously housing and homelessness issues are complex but every Australian should be entitled to a secure home over their heads. What we have seen from the Morrison Government is a complete hands off approach. This is a proposal and maybe Helen will talk to the details of them but we are encouraged when we see a community organisation step forward and make sure vulnerable Australians and vulnerable Tasmanians are looked after. There is no excuse from the hands off approach the Morrison Government is taking when it comes to housing in Australia, particularly in Hobart where there is a crisis.

POLLEY: What we are seeing now is I think the worst I have ever seen it. In terms of the amount of people who are finding themselves homeless in the community. And obviously we would work with all of these organisations. They are at the forefront, they are dealing with people that find themselves in these distressing situations. We don't know all the circumstances but what we do know is that it is a fundamental right to have a secure roof over your head but what we are finding. What community organisations are telling me is that their resources are being stretched beyond capacity. The Prime Minister says what this country needs is more love. Well, it is about time he showed some love for the homeless people in Tasmania and those others around the country. It is a fundamental right and we will always stand up for them.

JOURNALIST: So do you think the Government should be supporting the Salvation Army and Hobart City for the safe spots?

POLLEY: Well they should be working with those two organisations, the state government and local government to address these issues. Because it is a situation that has developed and is at crisis point in Hobart that is having a flow on affect here in Launceston and also on the north-west coast. It is not isolated to Hobart alone. These organisations are the ones dealing with the people that find themselves homeless. They have come up with a concept but it is really the governments responsibility to listen and give them the support they need. It is a fundamental right.