Labor pursues national interest by opposing visa privatisation

The CPSU has praised the Federal Labor Opposition’s confirmation that it will oppose the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government’s plan to privatise Australia’s visa processing system.

Labor’s stance has been outlined to the Government in a letter sent to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, as both Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs David Coleman have recused themselves from the privatisation process because of conflicts of interest.

The Government is rapidly progressing with its privatisation plans, formally releasing a Request for Tender on Friday in an opaque and closed process that could be rushed through before next year’s Federal Election. The documents indicate citizenship applications are also up for sale.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “This is an unequivocal statement from the Labor Party that it will keep Australia’s visa processing system out of the clutches of profit-driven corporations, outlining in forensic detail why the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government’s plan to sell off visa processing would be a disaster for all Australians and must not be allowed to proceed. The ALP has shown it’s ready to act in the national interest and to show the Coalition what a good government looks like.”

“We are confident the experience and expertise of our members in Home Affairs will now feed into a strong alternative plan from Labor. Rather than a short-sighted sell-off, we need an upgrade to modern visa processing systems that are owned, managed and operated by the Australian Government with Commonwealth staff, and that are backed by the ongoing resources needed for them to operate effectively.”

“The Government quietly released Request for Tender documents on Friday, confirming its arrogant and self-interested rush to proceed with a sell-off that will only benefit big business, and revealing that citizenship applications are the next item on its privatisation list. The Coalition is so compromised on this power grab by big business that the Prime Minister and his Immigration Minister wouldn’t even have participated in the Cabinet decision to push on with this destructive plan.”

“This is not an open tender, as only two shortlisted companies are in line to be handed our visa processing system. With phase one of this process closing in just over two months on February 20, it looks like the Government is racing to sell out our visa processing system before voters can have a say on their plan. Such an incredibly important decision should not be rushed through in the shadows of an election.”

“The Government seems unmoved by the 3,000 jobs that are at risk under its plan, and completely oblivious to the disastrous experience of other countries that have already gone down the visa privatisation path. Ordinary Australians will bear the brunt if it’s allowed to proceed, particularly those who were born overseas. Visas are already far from cheap here in Australia and costs have risen rapidly in the UK in just a few years since visa processing was privatised there.”

“These massive price jumps are without even considering the exorbitant charges that are likely here for gold-plated ‘premium’ services as private operators seek to maximise their profits. Under a profit-driven premium services model, private operators will have an incentive to make regular visa applicants wait ever longer to have their paperwork issued, unless they’re willing to pay through the nose to get in the fast lane for advice and/or processing.”

“Visa applications should only be assessed on their merits, as is the case now, not based on how much profit they can generate for a private company. Similarly, it makes perfect sense to use technology to improve the efficiency and integrity of visa processing, but no sense at all when automation is just used as a short-cut to bigger profits for corporate raiders. Around half the visas now are issued through automated processes, and any expansion on that should be based on the national interest, not corporate interests.”

MEDIA CONTACT: SIMON FRAZER 0409 493 290

All electoral communications authorised by Nadine Flood, Community and Public Sector Union (PSU Group), Sydney