Labor is seeking to establish a Senate inquiry into the “broken” family and partner visa program, which it says has been years in the making and is tearing hundreds of thousands of “distraught” Australian families apart.
Labor MP Julian Hill is behind the push for a wide-ranging inquiry that will focus on partner visas, delays, discrimination and broader issues in the family visa program.
It follows earlier calls from the Greens last week, and is set to be formalised in the Senate on Tuesday.
“Hundreds of thousands of Australian families are distraught at the Liberals’ mismanagement of the family and partner visa program,” Mr Hill told SBS News.
“Nearly 100,00 people are desperately waiting for a visa for their partner, many separated for years with no hope in sight.”
The push for an overhaul of the system comes as Australia’s migration program is rocked by the coronavirus pandemic, which the Department of Home Affairs says has impacted visa processing.
Offshore granting requirements have attracted particular scrutiny.
Until recently, family and partner visa applicants had to leave the country when their visa was granted in order for it to be approved.
The federal government has since introduced travel concessions – and “intended” start dates from this Saturday – so that applicants no longer have to travel aboard during the pandemic to have their visa granted.
But Mr Hill said the government’s “cruel delays” and “maladministration” extended beyond the pandemic.
“Scott Morrison pretends the delays are due to COVID-19, but that’s nonsense – this mess has been years in the making,” he said.
“The system is broken.”
Mr Hill encouraged every Australian who has been caught up in the family and partner visa system to make a submission.
“This Labor-dominated Senate inquiry … will be a chance to shine light into Peter Dutton’s black hole, the Department of Home Affairs, and expose the Liberals’ illegal delays and maladministration,” he said.
The Department of Home Affairs has been contacted for comment.