Kristina Keneally sounds alarm on temporary migrants

Kristina Keneally sounds alarm on temporary migrants

“They use online tourist visa systems, now available to Malaysia and China, where most of these airplane arrivals come from,” she will say, according to a draft of the speech to be delivered at Curtin Research Centre.

“Once the trafficked worker is here, the smugglers instruct them to apply for asylum, knowing the worker will be put on a bridging visa for at least three years before their application is determined.

“We are not talking about a handful of workers on a couple of farms. We’re talking about tens of thousands of people in hospitality, cleaning, security, beauty, food manufacturing, transport, and sex work.”

Senator Keneally will say that boats carrying asylum seekers cannot be allowed to restart, but the Morrison Government must now turn its attention in cracking down on the plane arrivals.

Australia is now home to the second largest temporary migrant workforce in the world, right behind the United States, with the number of people on temporary visas jumping from 1.8 million to 2.2 million in the past four years.

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Not including New Zealanders, the number of temporary migrants has doubled since 2007 to one million people, or 4 per cent of the population.

The Morrison government last year capped permanent migration at 160,000 for the next four years to address concerns in the community about population growth and urban congestion, and also introduced new skilled visas to attract more workers to the regions.

While acknowledging the importance of attracting skilled workers, Senator Keneally said the government had done nothing to stop the rise in temporary workers.

“This is the big corrosive change occurring underneath under the surface of this government’s immigration policies,” Senator Keneally will say.

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“Changing Australia from a nation built by permanent migrants… to an economy dependent on temporary migrants.”

Senator Keneally will say the surge in temporary workers affects all workers because the “underpaid, under-class” would “undercut wages and conditions across the country.”

With estimates suggesting that temporary migrants make up 10 per cent of the younger-aged workforce, Senator Keneally will warn the situation risked creating a “society in which a growing proportion are permanently locked out of getting a go”.

Senator Keneally will say it will be much harder for all levels of government to educate and prepare for the Australian population to manage bushfire risks if three million people – or 12 per cent of the population – are legally prevented from being permanently part of the Australian community.

Anthony is foreign affairs and national security correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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