Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil has accused her Liberal predecessor, now Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, of “starving” the immigration system of resources and allowing criminal syndicates to exploit its weaknesses.
- Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said people with criminal convictions were “entering the country” under Peter Dutton’s watch.
- Ms O’Neil said the Opposition Leader “presided over the breakdown of our migration system”.
- Christine Nixon’s review of Australia’s visa system found Australia’s protection visa system was exploited by bad actors.
“I mean, it’s just an incredible fraud that’s been perpetrated against the Australian people here. We had Peter Dutton, who built his political career, telling everyone about how tough he was at the borders and at the same time time, it has been by reducing funding for compliance, by reducing funding to the immigration section of the department,” the minister said. 7:30 a.m..
“And under his leadership, people with criminal convictions literally came into the country and oversaw vast networks of human trafficking and sexual slavery, literally the worst crimes that could be committed on this great Earth.”
The Home Secretary made the comments in response to the rapid review into the operation of Australia’s visa system, led by former Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon. The study revealed “grotesque abuses” against temporary migrants, including sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
Ms O’Neil told 7.30pm that the gaps in immigration compliance are such that “criminal gangs around the world are actually looking to Australia and seeing the abuses facilitated by the migration system as a big advantage to come and operate here.”
Between 2013 and 2022, the number of immigration compliance officers was reduced from 360 to 203.
Labor is now promising to restore some compliance resources with 290 staff.
But it won’t increase resources to 2013 levels, even if immigration is called a “broken system.”
It will also create a new “Compliance Division” and invest $50 million over four years to ensure the integrity of the visa system.
The opposition leader, who served as immigration minister in 2014 before becoming interior minister in 2017, strongly rejected Ms O’Neil’s accusations.
“I canceled more than 6,000 visas of criminals: people who committed rape, sexual assault against women and men, pedophiles. I canceled the visas of drug traffickers and our country is today safer because of it,” he said.
“Labor has not carried out a fraction of the visa cancellations in the last 15 months compared to what we did when we were in government.”
At a press conference, Mr Dutton said Labor lost control of the borders the last time they were in power.
“This is a weak government and we are not going to take lessons on migration issues from a Labor government that has presided over the biggest immigration debacle in our country’s history.”
But, speaking to ABC’s 7:30, Ms O’Neil said Mr Dutton “presided over the breakdown of our migration system”.
“To say that he kicked people out of the country is, you know, just the price of becoming immigration minister of this country – that doesn’t excuse the fact that he presided over a collapse “We are literally talking about networks of women who have been taken into sexual slavery in our country,” she said.
“And if you can’t be a good immigration minister, I don’t know why you think you can be prime minister.”
Christine Nixon’s review of Australia’s visa system found Australia’s protection visa system was exploited by bad actors who would appeal unfavorable asylum claims, knowing the process would take nine to 11 years to complete. resolved, giving them more time in the country.
“People are making unfounded asylum claims, and they’re doing it because the way we manage these claims allows them to spend long periods of time in Australia with work rights they wouldn’t otherwise be able to have.” said Ms. O’Neil.
“Now, one of the things that really concerns me about this system is that the people who are most hurt by these unfounded claims are the ones who are genuinely trying to seek asylum for genuine reasons. They’re stuck in a broken process.”
The Nixon study also found that education remained a breeding ground for immigration and visa fraud.
It found that 15 per cent of international students undertaking vocational training (VET) had dropped out of a course but remained in the country.
Ms O’Neil called it a “serious problem”.
“VET is an important part of our economy here in Australia, but it is also a vulnerability for us in the migration system,” she said. “I can tell you that at present my department refuses almost half of all applications to take VET courses in this country due to integrity issues.”
Asked whether officials in her own department, including embattled secretary Michael Pezzullo, shared responsibility for the failures of Australia’s immigration system, Ms O’Neil once again placed the blame on her predecessor.
“Peter Dutton is the person who needs to come forward and answer the fundamental question here, which is how he could so dishonestly present himself as a protector of our borders and preside over such a broken migration system.”
Mr Pezzullo is currently under investigation by the Australian Public Service Commission after leaked emails and text messages published by Nine Media raised questions about his political activities.
Ms. O’Neil declined to comment on the matter.
“We are a government that runs proper processes. I have rightly reported the conduct that has been reported to the Civil Service Commissioner, I will not make any political comment on this matter until the Commissioner of the civil service comes back to me.”