The President Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) Bill Papastergiadis was invited by Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge with a number of other community leaders for a briefing on the budget and its effect on immigration and multicultural communities.
Mr Papastergiadis had the opportunity to ask Minister Tudge a number of questions. One question related to how the Government would assist Families in Australia connecting with other family members overseas. He also raised the issue of quarantining being a disincentive to many for many family members making travel arrangements, and whether Greece could be considered as one of the countries by Australia for the purpose of identifying talented and skilled migrants – given this issue was identified by the Minister as a priority.
Minister Tudge made the following comments in his introduction:
- It was the focus of the Federal Government to get the economy going after COVID.
- The retraction globally to economies has been 4.5% due to COVID. The contraction by comparison due to the GFC to the global economy was a mere .11.
- This is the first time in 75 years that Australia will have a negative net overseas migration figure (that is people leaving versus those coming into the country) normally, there is a net 220,000 people arrive in Australia. This year it will be a minus 70,000 figure in regards to people movement.
- The population growth which is important to our economy, this year it will be .2%, the lowest since WW1
- The Federal Government is trying to reopen borders.
- The Government is committed to a permanent migration program and ensuring the overall cap is 160,000 people, the same as last year.
- Last year, the split in relation to the migrations programs was having skilled migrants at 2/3 of the migration figure with family at one third.
- This Year it will be split evenly at 50% for skilled and family components.
- The Fed Government is trying to address the partner VISA issues that are present at the moment.
- The Fed Government is prioritising highly skilled people as well as business investors.
Minister Tudge said that social cohesion remains important for the Federal Government program. Foreign interference has been a particular problem and that it was at levels never seen since WW2. The Federal Government will try significantly to ensure communities are not split as a result of foreign factors. It is investing in services to offset this. The Government is significantly increasing resources for the teaching of the English language such that all migrants can attend free classes for as long as they like. Domestic violence will be an important issue for a spousal VISA.
Mr Papastergiadis asked, “what consideration was the government giving to allow our communities to travel and visit their loved ones overseas or equally to allow their loved ones to visit Australia”.
Mr Tudge responded as follows: The imposition of quarantining was a significant impediment to this. Minister Tudge said that 58,000 Australians have left Australia since borders were closed. Minister Tudge accepted that quarantining is a speed hump to migration and that the states are playing a key role in setting those limits. For example, Victoria will not allow any quarantining what so ever. The Government is hopeful that bubbles with other countries will be opened in the near future and is also hopeful that a vaccine will be available by mid-2021.
He then asked the Minister in regards to the consideration of its proposal about skilled migrants and “as to whether it would be open to allowing our communities to work with the Government on developing better links with certain countries, including Greece”
"I referred the Minister to the lobbying by the Greek Community of Melbourne to have a skills expo organised in Thessaloniki a few years ago," Mr Papastergiadis said.
"Minister Tudge replied that he was open to further conversations from this issue."
The Minister when asked on the application of English being applied retrospectively for family reunion VISA’s, advised that it would not apply retrospectively and would only apply to new applicants from the end of 2021.