Subjects: Deadline for IMAs to lodge protection claims; putting Australian workers first – abolition of 457 Visas.
Thanks for being here this morning. I wanted to announce today that the Government has taken a decision in relation to those people who are fake refugees. People who are refusing to provide detail about their claim for protection.
We are going to set a deadline for those people and we have set that deadline for the end of this year in October.
This is a very serious situation and it’s costing Australian taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Money that could be spent on education, on health, on police, on other services in the community and we have 7500 people at the moment who came as part of the 50,000 people on 800 boats who are either refusing to provide any detail, including in some cases even about their identity, refusing to answer questions about their protection claims or indeed refusing to lodge those protection claims.
Now we aren’t going to tolerate that any longer.
At the moment we know that last year the 50,000 people or the legacy of that 50,000 arrivals on 800 boats cost the Australian taxpayer about $1.9 billion.
Over the course of the last eight years or so the 50,000 people who came on 800 boats when Labor lost control of our borders has cost us some $13.7 billion.
So we are going to say to those people who refuse to engage in the process and provide information about their protection claim that we are no longer going to provide income support.
We will provide Medicare support, we will give people work rights and we will give people support if they have children of school age to pay for those education costs.
But we are not going to provide taxpayer assistance beyond that and the expectation is if people can’t make their claim for protection then they need to depart our country as quickly as possible.
It’s important to recognise that Australia is one of the most generous nations in the world when it comes to providing a home for thousands of refugees each year. On a per capita basis we are second only to Canada in terms of our generosity.
But we aren’t going to be taken for a ride by the thousands of people who are refusing to provide details about their protection claims. We are not going to allow, given the level of debt that our country is in, for more debt to be run up paying for welfare services for people who are not genuine. We are not going to allow this situation to continue.
The Government has been very clear and very determined for a long period of time that we are going to make sure that these boats don’t start up again. Under Labor they lost control of our borders. It is going to take us time to clean up Labor’s mess of 50,000 people arriving on 800 boats and our announcement today is the next step in cleaning up that mess.
What do you do if some of these people don’t apply for asylum? How will you round them up?
Well, their visas will be cancelled and they will be deported from our country. If people have a claim for protection and they can make that claim out. They need to provide the information, they need to answer the questions and then they can be determined to be a refugee or not.
But for 7500 at the moment, they are fusing to answer questions. Some of them are refusing to lodge claims at all and others refuse to provide any evidence around their identity and we are not going to allow that to continue; so people will be moved off their current visa on to a new class of visa which will mean that they will not have the sort of welfare support that they have at the moment and they will be encouraged to return back to their country of origin as quickly as possible.
So they will be deported back to their country of origin?
They will be deported back. If people can’t give us information about their identity, if they’ve arrived by boat and they refuse to provide information in relation to their protection claim, they’re not going to answer questions, then they can expect to be deported.
We aren’t going to use taxpayers’ money, people work hard for their money, they pay taxes each year and they don’t want that money going to welfare payments to people who are not true refugees and this Government’s going to clampdown. We aren’t going to allow these people to continue to access welfare services and we’re going to make that very clear to people.
Do you think some of these people, as you call them fake refugees, will potentially go into hiding if they refuse to even give you their identity?
Obviously there’s a vast array of resources that we have within the Australian Border Force and within the Australian Federal Police and other agencies that we work with on a daily basis.
So if people think that they can rip the Australian taxpayer off, if people think they can con the Australian taxpayer, then I’m sorry, the game’s up.
We are not going to allow people to take Australian taxpayers for a ride, we are prepared to support people who are legitimate refugees, but we aren’t going to support people who are just accessing welfare, accessing taxpayer benefits and then refusing to provide any information in relation to their protection claim.
Do you know where these people are currently? Is this a way to flush them out if they’re on the lam?
We will know where most of these people are. There’s engagement in some cases there have been countless letters that have been sent out, interviews that have been conducted, there’s been engagement with those people and they refuse to provide the detail that’s requested of them.
If you’re a legitimate refugee as many thousands of people over the years have been able to demonstrate – bearing in mind that since the Second World War we’ve settled something like 845,000 refugees in this country – if you’re a legitimate refugee and you have a protection claim to make, you’re keen to make that claim.
If you’re just taking the system for a ride and you’re taking taxpayers’ generosity to the extreme then you don’t engage I suppose, you don’t provide information and that’s what we’re not going to tolerate.
Once that October deadline comes, how long will they have before their deported? If they haven’t applied?
We’re already engaging with people now so I’ve already written out to those people, I’ve given them instruction in relation to what they need to do to engage in the process, the information that they need to provided and they need to do that as quickly as possible because if by the beginning of October they haven’t engaged in that process then they will have their visas cancelled, they will be deported and we will concentrate our efforts on supporting those refugees who are legitimate, who have fled persecution and are deserving of our support.
Just on a similar topic, but different one. How are you talks with companies, Australian companies, re 457 visa changes proceeding? How are they going?
The short answer is good.
The Government made a very definite decision in relationship to abolishing the 457 programme because we did think there were rorts and rackets within the 457 programme.
The new visa stream which is both a short term stream and medium term stream allows people firstly as employers to properly advertise for Australians to fill those jobs, to conduct criminal history checks and provide all the information that’s required.
If they can’t fill that position with an Australian worker then in limited circumstances they can fill that position with a foreign worker, but I want the default position to be the Australian worker filling that job or training taking place.
In this Budget we announced $1.5 billion going into a training fund which will help 300,000 apprentices and training otherwise which will be of great benefit. It will help reduce youth unemployment in some areas which is as high or higher than 20 or 25 per cent and so we’ll continue to work with employers because there is an important place for some people to come in on that visa stream, but I want the default position to be Australian workers to fill those jobs.
Is there any chance the Government will make further exemptions for important jobs like life scientists and CEOs and add them to the list of positions that do have a pathway to permanent residency?
I’d just make a couple of points here. There have been a few cases in the media recently where I’ve gone back and had a look at the individual facts of that case and they haven’t been affected by the changes that we’ve announced.
So all I would ask is that people get some professional information and advice in relation to their particular companies or circumstances because where people are highly skilled, particularly if they’re being employed in medical research institutes or tertiary hospitals or university research projects etc. In many cases they won’t be affected by the changes that we’ve made, certainly not to the extent that’s being made out in some of these media articles.
But we have engaged with the Group of Eight and the universities otherwise.
We announced in our original announcement on 457s that we would twice yearly look at the occupations list, that’s due to come up in July and if we need to make any tweaks or changes we will do that then, but it’s very clear that the Government’s position is that we want to see more Australians trained, we want people into jobs, we want those jobs to be properly advertised and if it’s the case that we can’t fill those jobs with Australians then employers can employ foreign workers.
Just one more, back on the original topic. You’ve said that not only will they be deported, but they will also be banned from re-entering Australia. Is that because you fear they may try and come back in and stay here again?
We’ve already seen evidence of people trying to re-enter, entering into sham marriages offshore with Australian citizens, we’ve seen all sorts of circumstances that we just aren’t going to tolerate.
As I say Australia is a very generous nation, we haven’t put the people on Manus or Nauru we’re cleaning up Labor’s mess of 50,000 people who arrived on 800 boats meant that 8000 children went into detention; there were 17 detention centres set up and tragically 1200 people drowned at sea.
Our job is to clean up Labor’s mess. They lost control of our borders and we’re doing that, but we aren’t going to allow people to take advantage of the Australian taxpayer, we are going to support those people who are genuine refugees which has always been the case, but those people who are not genuine can expect to be deported.
They can expect not to have the generosity of the Australian taxpayer assistance and we expect them to engage between now and October, if they don’t they will be deported from our country and we are not going to allow them to re-enter again through the back door.
Is this brought on by the Budget, by the Budget deficit getting larger?
This is brought on by wanting to make sure that we’ve got a reasonable, fair system.
As taxpayers we don’t want to be taken as mugs, we don’t want to run up extra debt as a Government to pay for people that don’t have a right to be here. We spend a lot of money each year in the welfare system supporting legitimate refugees, but we aren’t going to support people who are not refugees or who haven’t made legitimate claims to be here.
We’re very clear about that, we’re not going to resile from it and if we believe that people can stay here on taxpayers’ funds there is just no end to that. You’ll see people arriving by boats as a result of that and we know from the UN figures there is something like 65 million people across the world who are economic migrants that would seek to come here tomorrow.
Australia wants an orderly migration programme, that’s what we’ve done by securing our borders and we are not going to give it up under this Government.
Are there any impositions under human rights law to deport these people directly to their countries?
No. We’ve taken advice, obviously legal advice, in relation to any of these decisions and we base our judgements, our decisions, on that advice.