top of page

The Australian: Left wins big on migration moves

Sarah Ison, Greg Brown

Sweeping new migration laws and policies including setting up a parliamentary inquiry into offshore detention, establishing a special envoy for refugees, increasing work, study and welfare rights for asylum-seekers and legislating to ensure asylum-seekers are not held in detention for longer than 90 days have been rubber-stamped in the ALP platform. Labor for Refugees and Left-faction delegates won big concessions in the platform, with the party pledging to establish a firewall between the Department of Home Affairs and regulatory agencies to “protect exploited migrant workers from unwarranted deportation and ensure they can come forward without fear”. The government is also moving to give migrant workers special visa exemptions allowing them more time between moving jobs and will abolish temporary protection and safe haven enterprise visas. The draft platform’s call to “progressively” increase the ­community sponsored refugee program to 5000 places a year was doubled in the final platform. The community sponsored refugee program was established in 2017 and allows people and businesses to sponsor a refugee and ­assist them in their resettlement. The ambition to grow the program to 10,000 a year is on top of an aim in the platform to increase the humanitarian intake from 20,000 to 27,000. In response to a campaign from Labor for Refugees, amendments were backed at the conference enshrining the government’s commitment to abolishing temporary protection visas in the platform. The platform has also committed the Labor government to launching a parliamentary inquiry into immigration detention and the appointment of a special envoy for refugees and asylum-seekers, following a push from the Left to close Nauru. Labor committed to “give the highest priority to the humane, durable and timely resettlement of refugees subject to third country resettlement agreements”.

“Labor will work … to support and resettle refugees using safe, orderly pathways,” an amendment passed on Friday read. People seeking asylum will now also have means-tested access to “appropriate social ser­vices”, including income, crisis housing, healthcare, mental health, community, education and English as a second language support during their assessment of a claim for protection. The platform also went further on rights for asylum-seekers in community detention and on bridging visas, granting them not only working rights but ensuring they had “study rights” as well. Immigration Minister Andrew Giles, who opposed boat turnbacks at the 2015 national conference under Bill Shorten’s leadership, lauded the party’s unity as a “pragmatic approach”.

“It shows how far we’ve come by working together, by bringing together the values that unite everyone in this room with a clear sense of common purpose,” he said. “We are securing real benefits through this approach.” Labor has formally committed to indexing the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold in its platform, with unions calling on the government to go further and lift the TSMIT from $70,000 to $90,000. Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil announced an increase to the TSMIT earlier this year from just under $54,000 to $70,000.

bottom of page