Labor minister Kristina Keneally has raised questions about Australia’s over-reliance on temporary migrants, and will claim that the dependence on short-term workers rather than permanent visa-holders is having a “corrosive” effect on the nation.
In what will be her first major speech since taking over the portfolio in 2019, the shadow minister for home affairs is set to highlight concerns over the emergence of a new “underclass” who have no stake or say in the future of the country.
“This is the big corrosive change occurring underneath under the surface of this government’s immigration policies,” Senator Keneally will argue at the John Curtin Research Centre on Thursday, reports The Age.
“Changing Australia from a nation built by permanent migrants… to an economy dependent on temporary migrants.”
Australia currently boasts the second highest number of temporary workers in the world, behind the United States. However last year the Coalition capped the intake at 160,000 temporary migrants for the next four years.
Keneally will also argue that the rising number of temporary workers, particularly amongst younger demographics, could pose risks when it comes to bushfire education and prevention as a growing proportion of the population are “permanently locked out of getting a go”.
“How will the government of the day be able to assist, or even plan for, these people in the aftermath of a disaster if they are not eligible for government support or relief payments?” she will ask.
Preview of @KKeneally’s Curtin Lecture tonight ‘In her first major policy speech since taking over the shadow portfolio, Senator Keneally will declare Australia is changing from a nation built by permanent migrants to an economy relying on temporary visas’ https://t.co/GfJ9jfeTXp
— John Curtin Research Centre (@curtin_rc) January 29, 2020
Keneally will also warn that, after the boats were stopped, people smugglers have instead begun to use airplanes to smuggle people into the country, and the senator will call on the Morrison government to turn their attention to the issue, while ensuring that arrivals by boat do not restart.
She will say: “They use online tourist visa systems, now available to Malaysia and China, where most of these airplane arrivals come from. Once the trafficked worker is here, the smugglers instruct them to apply for asylum, knowing the worker will be put on a bridging visa for at least three years before their application is determined.
“We are not talking about a handful of workers on a couple of farms. We’re talking about tens of thousands of people in hospitality, cleaning, security, beauty, food manufacturing, transport, and sex work.”