Parkes MP Mark Coulton came out all guns blazing this week against the Federal government, saying despite communities ‘crying out’ for skilled workers, Labor were holding them back with red tape.
Not so, said Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Giles, who squarely put the blame on the previous Federal government – of which Mr Coulton was a member – claiming they left a backlog of almost one million unprocessed visas.
“Where they [the Coalition] failed to take action, this government has stepped up,” Minister Giles told the Barrier Truth.
“Now, they’re attempting to mislead regional communities into forgetting that worker shortages in our regions were created under their watch.”
Mr Coulton, a Nationals MP and former minister in the previous Coalition government, gathered a group of shadow ministers to provide a combined broadside against the government over the visa situation.
Deputy leader of the opposition, Sussan Ley, Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Dan Tehan, and Shadow Minister for Health, Anne Ruston, all weighed in on the visa situation.
“Communities throughout the Parkes electorate are crying out for skilled workers,” said Mr Coulton, “however healthcare workers, nurses, disability support workers, teachers and doctors are being unfairly prevented from priority visa processing because of red tape imposed by the Labor government.”
The Nationals MP says he has been highlighting this issue since late last year after recognising an uptick in calls to his office from people looking for help to get their visas after waiting as long as 24 months, in some cases.
“Unfortunately, my calls for the Labor government to prioritise onshore skilled regional visa applicants has fallen on deaf ears,” Mr Coulton said.
“I’ve written to Minister Giles several times and have advocated on the behalf of dozens of people in the Parkes electorate who are being impacted by this Ministerial Direction, but with no luck. The number of distraught people contacting my office is only rising as this issue continues.”
But the minister says the Labor government has almost tripled the number of regional visas compared to the number the Coalition last delivered in government.
Minister Giles says it now only takes three days for a temporary skilled nurse or teacher to have their visa processed.
A ministerial spokesperson told the Truth there had been a vast increase in the number of temporary applications finalised.
“The Department [of Home Affairs] finalised over four million temporary and migration applications which is a 409 per cent increase from the same period in the previous year [just over 788,000 in 2021-22].”
“On-hand temporary and migration applications are now almost 40 per cent lower than in June 2022.”