The cities of Greater Dandenong and Casey are some of the most multicultural places in the country.
Federation Chamber - 1 June, 2023
The thing that distinguishes my community in south-east Melbourne though is the human diversity. The cities of Greater Dandenong and Casey are some of the most multicultural places in the country.
Greater Dandenong is the most multicultural place. There are people from more than 150 countries speaking more than 200 languages, with more than 100 different faith groups, every day.
We are rich with that human diversity but we are also globally connected, and daily life isn't just local. People are constantly connected to all parts of the globe, every corner of the world, every day, every hour of every day, on WhatsApp, Facebook, FaceTime, Signal, Zoom, Teams meetings, staying in touch in every time zone with family, friends, loved ones, doing business. So my electorate office is an outlier.
It's a little bit weird when I talk to my colleagues. The biggest issue is not Centrelink, it's not the tax office, it's not the NDIS, it's not the NBN, it's not emergency relief, it's not Medicare. Eighty or 90 per cent of the stuff that comes through my front door, that my staff deal with, is cleaning up the shocking mess of nearly one million visa and citizenship applications that this mob, to their eternal shame, left behind.
[Opposition members interjecting]
They laugh! They just don't get it. This is an essential service in a multicultural community. They're still arguing about it! We've reduced this million backlog by more than 40 per cent. Visitors seeking weddings, birthdays, funerals, time together—most of those visas now take a few days. But there are also citizenship delays, and partner visas, parent visas, child visas and orphan visas are banked up.
We've employed 645 new staff and sped up the processing. Our country should have welcomed thousands of citizens years ago, instead of leaving them with their lives in limbo.
Less than three per cent of the case load now have been waiting more than five years, and we're getting through them. The average time's down to seven months. Partner visas, though? This mob will never apologise to the couples that I've spoken to who've lost their chance in life to ever have children, waiting four or five years. Their time for IVF has passed.
The opposition laugh about this when you raise it, but these are real human beings not statistics. The worst, of course, is people from Afghanistan. Thousands in my electorate, with more than 10,000 people having been born in Afghanistan, have never met their own children or haven't seen them in years—five, six, seven, eight, nine or 10 years! That's deliberate discrimination.
There was a rule the Liberals put in place, to grab these people's visas. We've removed it and we're now working through this case load. Nothing can ever make up for those lost years though. Shame on you.