Last August, Tony Abbott said Australia would accept an additional 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees fleeing violence in their homelands.
Today, we see evidence the Turnbull Government is incapable of welcoming these new migrants.
In MYEFO last year, the Turnbull Government forecast a revised $221 million in settlement support for 2015-16 to assist new humanitarian migrants, including the additional Syrians and Iraqis.
Yet actual expenditure in 2015-16, as detailed in the Budget, is just $141 million. This is lower than even the Budget forecast from 12 months earlier, which did not account for an additional 12,000 people.
What is going on? This $80 million shortfall in settlement support represents thousands of lives stuck on hold. The Turnbull Government is unable to settle these new humanitarian arrivals in a timely manner.
At last count, a mere 187 people have arrived and only 1600 visas have been issued. In Canada, the Trudeau Government was elected in October 2015 and within six months had accepted 20,000 new migrants.
This is not good enough. Australia has a proud record of humanitarian settlement but the Turnbull Government’s inaction is undermining this.
The Australian community – from big and small businesses, to civil society, state and local governments – is waiting with open arms to help Syrians and Iraqis settle in Australia. However this patience will not last forever. Jobs and accommodation being held for new arrivals will eventually disappear, making a new life in Australia more difficult than it already is.
The settlement journey for a new humanitarian migrant can be daunting. Governments should seek to make this easier instead of adding delay and confusion.
Labor welcomes a larger humanitarian program. A permanent humanitarian program of 27,000 reflects Australia’s capacity to help. We will ensure humanitarian migrants are settled in a timely manner.
WEDNESDAY, 4 MAY 2016