On June 16, the new Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Andrew Giles delivered his maiden speech at the Federation of Ethnic Community Councils of Australia (FECCA) conference currently in course in Melbourne.
Speaking exclusively to SBS Hindi, Minister Giles didn’t mince words when he said the new government was absolutely focused on dealing with the current visa backlog.
- Visa and citizenship backlogs ‘top priority’ for government, says immigration minister
- ‘Parental visa is a big issue for my electorate’: Andrew Giles at FECCA conference
- ‘The current backlog is a result of the pandemic, the new government must act quickly’: former immigration minister Dan Tehan
“A top priority for me is to deal with the neglect and backlog in the visa system as well as the processing of citizenship which is the result of a long period of neglect of our nation’s immigration functions under Liberal government,” he said.
“Prime Minister Albanese and I are first and foremost focused on clearing the backlog and I have had regular discussions with ministries and officials to ensure this is a priority.
“And I think we can’t overstate the importance of that with so many people who have been separated for so long due to the pandemic. These human connections need to be restored,” Mr. Giles added.
The minister also highlighted the waiting period for those in line to acquire Australian citizenship.
“And the final point I will make is that too many Australians have waited too long to become citizens. That is something that also needs to be addressed,” he said.
Describing Australian citizenship as a combination of a long journey, a significant and often beautiful moment in people’s lives, the minister said: ‘Too many people have been waiting for years is simply unacceptable’ .
On a question about skilled temporary workers needing to obtain permanent residency, Mr Giles said: “What concerns me [about] is to ensure that we rebalance our immigration system at all levels to [a] greater preference for permanent forms of migration,” he explained.
Mr Giles also assured that the new government was committed to working on visas for parents. This issue has been a major concern for the Indo-Australian community.
“It’s a really important issue for a lot of people, including a lot of people in my constituency,” he said.
He represents the Scullin Electoral Division, which includes Melbourne’s northern suburbs like Epping, Thomastown, Bundoora, Lalor, Mill Park and South Morang, all of which are home to a large ethnic Indian population.
Dwelling on the backlog of citizenship applications, Minister Giles said: “This is something we are undertaking detailed work on as it is a complex issue which requires an approach which will involve extensive consultation with communities. and design work in ministries”.
Welcoming the role of the FECCA 2022 conference, Mr Giles said the Labor government “will work for a country where everyone really belongs, where everyone is valued, everyone is respected and everyone is proud of who It is”.
Other speakers at the opening and plenary sessions of the conference included former immigration minister Dan Tehan. A member of the Morrison government until about a month ago, Mr Tehan is now the shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship.
Commenting on the issue of the current visa backlog – a legacy of the Morrison government, in which he held the immigration and citizenship portfolio – Mr Tehan told SBS Hindi that it was the result of the pandemic and that “the new government should act quickly to fix the problem”.
“One of the commitments we had when we were in government was obviously to make sure we got rid of this backlog and we put in extra resources to make that happen,” Tehan said.
The two-day event was co-hosted by FECCA and the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria (ECCV). A diverse group of multicultural leaders, delegates, young and new voices and academics converged at the conference, which this year’s theme is ‘Advancing Multicultural Australia’.
Over 100 speakers attend, speaking on several key issues including racism, elder care reform, disability, identity and diversity.
The conference was also attended by the Governor General of Australia, David Hurley, who delivered an opening address.
Speaking to SBS Hindi, Mr Hurley said: ‘I am here for a specific purpose – to encourage leaders of the ethnic communities represented here to consider nominating individuals for recognition of the Order of Australia. We need to increase the diversity reflected in the College and the number of appointments received.
The leader of the Greens, Senator Adam Bandt, was also seen at the conference.
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