19 November 2022
One of the legacies of the Morrison Government is a complete mess in immigration.
I grew up in Port Kembla where a huge influx of ‘displaced persons’ (i.e. refugees) from post-war Europe came to Australia and worked in the Steelworks. Initially the kids at my primary school came from the migrant hostels that had been set up in the old army accommodation, but then the NSW Housing Commission built whole suburbs to cope with the load. These were initially rented, but eventually they bought their homes. The kids learned English, we got used to their funny names and unusual school lunches and they grew up as good Aussie kids.
It might be noted that there was an influx of Hungarians after the 1956 uprising against the Russians there and some of those became captains of Austr;ian industry. Australia took a lot of refugees from Vietnam, claimed it was a multicultural country and had benefited enormously from the influx of foreign talent. Paul Keating tried to fund an initiative to foster language teaching so that a large number of Australians would become bilingual, but this and the free ESL (English as a Second Language) classes were defunded by John Howard, who won an election by demonising refugees and promising to ‘turn back the boats’ The fact that there were numerically not very many boat people and that political refugees are generally the elite from when re they come was ignored and Australia was set on a path of not only being totally callous with refugees, but also wasting huge amounts of money on dodgy contractors and facilities. The delays were also a disgrace.
But meanwhile other immigration developed with migration agents charging exorbitant amounts, stories of people of dubious character buying visas, and even sex slaves. Some employers brought people in with a sponsored deal that they had to work for 2 years to then be eligible for a permanent visa, and in my own experience I saw a couple on five 12 hour night shifts a week to get this. Many students, allowed to work only 20 hours a week and unable to live on this were paid sub-award wages, obviously dragging Australian wages down in all the casual industries.
I have tried to help a number of good people who were injured and in danger of deportation to save insurers money, and found there are many dodgy practices and practitioners, as well as a very unresponsive system.
The current ‘labour shortage’ shows how dependent we all were on work visa and student casual labour, and the fear of industry-wide awards that are actually enforced says quite a lot about what was going on.
At last, after a lot of publicity about sex trafficking someone is cracking down on the Industry. Hopefully, this as well as adding a lot of public servants to process the applications in a more honest way will improve the situation.
Taskforce targets migration criminals
Nick McKenzie SMH 19 November 2022
The federal government has established a new multi-agency taskforce to target criminals exploiting Australia’s migration system after revelations of widespread visa rorting linked to sex trafficking, foreign worker mistreatment and drug crime.
Operation Inglenook is led by Australian Border Force and backed by other state and federal agencies, and will target the organised crime gangs and migration fixers exposed by Trafficked, a major investigative series by the Herald, The Age and 60 Minutes.
The taskforce is focusing on 20 migration agents with suspected links to the rorting, and one federal government-licensed agent has already been issued a notice that the Office of the Migration Agents Regulation Agency will ban him from providing migration advice.
Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil has promised major reform to the system, and said yesterday that the new taskforce was being staffed by investigators and regulatory officials aiming to reduce rampant exploitation of the migration system.
‘‘Its goal is to disrupt the networks exposed by the Trafficked series. The taskforce includes intelligence and compliance teams to assist with an investigation into the vulnerabilities of the migration system,’’ O’Neil said.
The minister said that after years of neglect by the former Coalition government, Labor was now acting. The Office of the Migration Agents Regulation Agency was working closely with the new taskforce.
The Trafficked series cast a light on visa rorting, sex trafficking and foreign worker exploitation in Australia. Among the reports was that of a human trafficking boss who entered Australia in 2014 and built a criminal underground sex empire despite having previously been jailed in Britain for similar offending.
That crime boss, Binjun Xie, is in hiding and being sought by authorities after being exposed in the series. Border security failures enabled Xie to allegedly set up a nationwide sex network that police said moved Asian women around like ‘‘cattle’’.
Trafficked also revealed how state and federal agencies have spent years issuing confidential warnings of migration rorting involving syndicates gaming the visa system to bring criminals or exploited workers into Australia. This is facilitated by networks of corrupt federal government licensed migration agents, education colleges, fixers and people who rort the English language test.
The investigation also focused on migration agent Jack Ta, who had boasted of ‘‘cosy’’ meals with Coalition ministers and who donated more than $25,000 to the campaign fund of former Liberal assistant home affairs minister Jason Wood. Ta is suspected of repeatedly gaming the visa system to help more than a dozen drug offenders remain in Australia.
Wood was the chair of parliament’s migration committee when the donations took place and he hosted Ta on at least two occasions to dine with now opposition leader Peter Dutton when he was home affairs minister.
This masthead has also confirmed that Ta attended the launch for O’Neil’s election campaign when she was a shadow minister and bought items at an auction worth $5200. The funds were donated to a charity after Ta’s conduct was exposed by this masthead.
Authorities have linked Ta’s migration agency to dozens of unmeritorious asylum seeker claims, including at least 15 made by convicted Vietnamese drug offenders.
Earlier this month, the federal government cleared the way for an overhaul of the visa rules by naming former Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson to review the system.
The new taskforce to investigate the migration scams will complement his inquiry.
Parkinson said it was ‘‘indisputable’’ the migration system was not working.