Subjects: permanent migration program, regional migration, DAMAs, Labor’s border protection failures, Tamil asylum seeker family
DAN TEHAN: So it’s wonderful to be here at Parkinson’s Dairy Farm. Incredible operation: five boys working in partnership with their father. I just can say it’s wonderful to see that we’re getting young Australians wanting to play part in agriculture. And really here, what we’re seeing also, is family farming at its strongest and at its best. And can I thank the Parkinsons for their hospitality. It’s also wonderful to be here with David Coleman, the Immigration Minister. David, thank you for the role that you played in establishing the DAMA here in south west Victoria. It’s an incredibly important initiative. We’re seeing the first take up now of the DAMA. But today is incredibly important, because one of the most crucial things is that we can get the dairy industry using the DAMA to meet their employment needs. Obviously, we want farmers to employ Australians first. But where they can’t get those workers because we have such a tight employment market, and we do hear in south west Victoria, we need to be able to bring that overseas labour in to make sure that we can continue to grow our farming communities and we can grow our local community. And that’s what the DAMA is going to enable us to do. But we’ve got to make sure that it’s fit for purpose for the dairy industry, as well as for the meat industry and for other important industries here in south west Victoria.
So David, thanks very much for coming down. I’ll ask you to say a few words and then we’ll get to Dan to say a few words. So over to you, David.
DAVID COLEMAN: Thanks, Dan. And good morning everyone. It’s wonderful to be here in south western Victoria. Thanks to the Parkinson family for hosting us here on their family farm. I wanted to come to regional Australia, particularly here to Dan Tehan’s electorate of Wannon, to talk about the results of our annual migration program for 2018-19. And also importantly our priorities for the coming year, and especially our priorities for regional Australia which is such a fundamental part of our migration plan. Now we have seen in 2018-19 a further reduction in the permanent migration intake in Australia to just over 160,000 people. That is the lowest number for quite some time. And of course, the Prime Minister and I announced earlier this year that the cap for the migration plan will be lowered to 160,000 in the future, which means that 160,000 is the maximum that we’ll see in future years in the program. And very importantly, within the program, we are very strongly focusing on migration to regional areas. The fact is we’ve had very strong population growth in metropolitan Australia, especially Sydney and Melbourne in recent years. But we haven’t had that same growth in regional Australia, and there are many opportunities in regional Australia for migrants to join local communities to help Australian businesses by filling those skill gaps and by helping those Australian businesses to grow, so that they can in turn employ more Australians.
So this year, we’re allocating 23,000 places within the migration program for people who commit to live and work in regional Australia for at least three years. And what that’s going to mean is there’s going to be more opportunities for regional businesses to get the skills that they need when an Australian is not available for that job. It’s always of course our first preference to fill available jobs with locals, but there are some occasions where that’s not possible, and that’s when we can use the migration system to help fill those gaps with some 23,000 scholars in the coming year. And in addition to that, for particular regions, we’re entering into Designated Area Migration Agreements – or DAMAs – where we acknowledge that particular regions have particular issues in filling gaps and skills. And we’ve done that here in the Great South Coast in Victoria to acknowledge that in an industry such as dairy has particular issues in filling roles. And so we’re creating special conditions for the Great South Coast region to assist farming communities to access the skills they need. And that’s going to make a real difference to fill in those skilled gaps here in regional Australia. So we’ll continue to focus on using the migration program to help regional Australia fill those gaps. We’ve also created more opportunities for working holiday makers, where if they commit and work in regional Australia, they get a longer period on their visa than they do if they were in the cities, and that’s again really important in assisting regional Australia, while also taking some of that population growth pressure off the big cities like Sydney and Melbourne. So it’s terrific to be here today.
DAN TEHAN: Dan, we might just need you to say a few words.
DAN PARKINSON: We certainly welcome it as dairy farmers. If you live in a region where unemployment is very low, it makes it a very tight labour market. We’ll continue to, I suppose, as best we can, source local people to employ and build their skills. Obviously that’s not always the case [inaudible].
DAN TEHAN: Righto, well done Dan. That’s great. Alright. Any questions?
QUESTION: How will you ensure that these people, if they’re coming with their families, how do you ensure they have the adequate support so their kids can integrate into the community?
DAVID COLEMAN: We have a range of programs in place for assisting people through settlement services and other activities and the important thing here is, these are people who are going to be coming with jobs, they will be filling a gap and we know from all of our experience in immigration that the immigrants who are most successful in settling in Australia tend to be people who have jobs. And it makes sense because they have the social connections through work and of course, have a steady income coming in. So we know that these people are coming in to fill a job opportunity and therefore, it’s very likely that they will succeed because they’ve got that anchor in the community.
QUESTION: I’ve got a question Minister Coleman. Just on the Biloela family. Why have you been so quiet about it?
DAVID COLEMAN: Oh look, thanks for your question. I’m involved in that court case as a party to those proceedings and the court obviously yesterday was informed of my position on this issue and the matter’s still before the courts. And as a consequence, it’s not appropriate to comment further.
QUESTION: Would they be free to apply for a different visa if they left Australia and then that application would be looked at positively because of their lives in Australia?
DAVID COLEMAN: Well again, look, I’m not going to comment on that specific case. What I would say more generally in terms of immigration experience in this country, is that what we saw under the Labor Party in terms of its management of our borders was appalling. It was a humanitarian catastrophe. We saw tragically 1200 people lose their lives at sea. We saw 8000 children placed in detention and we saw some 50,000 people arrive. Our Government has been very successful in fixing that problem and of course, we have one of the most generous humanitarian programs in the world. This year we will welcome 18,750 people under the refugee and humanitarian program and that’s something that we should be proud of as a nation. So there’s some general comments but not going into the specifics of the case.
QUESTION: Do you accept that it’s a bad look for au pairs to be able to flout their visa rules while there’s such a hard-line stance on this family’s future?
DAVID COLEMAN: Well again, in terms of the specifics of the case, I’m not going to…
QUESTION: You don’t think it’s a bad look?
DAVID COLEMAN: I’m not going to go into the specifics of the case.
QUESTION: When does a child born in this country get to an age where you can’t deport them because of a failed visa-refugee claim? What age?
DAVID COLEMAN: Well there are specific rules in relation to people whose families have arrived in different circumstances. But again, I’m not going to be drawn on the specific examples in particular situations.
QUESTION: But just generally speaking, is there an age where you can’t deport them because their parents have had a failed refugee claim?
DAVID COLEMAN: There are different rules that apply in different situations.
QUESTION: Back on with the program here. It looks like we will have at least a hundred jobs this year in Warrnambool through the program. When will they be rolled out? When can we see workers coming?
DAN TEHAN: Well we’re hopeful that that will happen before Christmas so the - obviously the program has started, we’ve taken the applications, that process is now with the Department, but our hope is that the first lot of workers will start before Christmas and then there will be subsequent rounds. Initially, we’ve got 500 places to fill. So my hope is in particular that as the program continues to roll out, we will see more dairy farmers reply and we’ll see a broadening of those industries that want to use it. And that’s why it’s great to have David down here because we want to make sure that the DAMA has a very practical element to it.
QUESTION: Question for you Dan. Are you disappointed to hear that the home of one of your former staffers Cameron Gill, has been raided?
DAN TEHAN: That is a matter before the - under investigation. I haven’t heard any confirmation of who’s house was raided. I obviously haven’t spoken to the AFP, so I’ll just leave that matter there.
QUESTION: So you don’t know that it’s Cameron Gill’s house that was raided?
DAN TEHAN: I’ve heard or seen nothing other than what’s been reported. So I don’t want to comment any further.
QUESTION: How would you - you worked with Cameron for a long time, how would you describe him?
DAN TEHAN: I’m not going to talk about something which is alleged and reported at the moment. It’s not appropriate.
QUESTION: What will the DAMA project mean for local communities and the migrants that come to our local community?
DAN TEHAN: Well I mean, it strengthens our local businesses, it therefore strengthens our community and therefore, it’s very beneficial to our communities. If we have businesses which have to move because they can’t get access to workers, that harms our local economy. We want to continue to grow our local economy, we want to continue to grow farms like this because that strengthens our communities and that’s what we want to continue to see.
QUESTION: What’s the salary for [indistinct] jobs, roughly?
DAN TEHAN: Apologies, I just couldn’t hear that.
QUESTION: Sorry, what is a salary for [indistinct] jobs roughly? How much…?
DAN: Well I’ll ask David to comment specifically. But one thing that we have been absolutely ensured is that we want locals to be employed first and then if they can’t be, then we obviously seek to bring in migration who can fill those jobs and there are specific requirements around salaries which I’ll ask David to address.
DAVID COLEMAN: That’s right. It’s related to the TSMIT scheme. The key point is that no worker can be paid less than an Australian worker would be paid in a comparable circumstance. So if Australian workers aren’t available, that’s demonstrated through labour market testing. There’s the opportunity to employ people under the DAMA, but never at a rate which is less than an Australian worker would be paid.
DAN TEHAN: Alright. We might call it an end there. Thanks very much for coming. Cheers. Thank you.