The Australian Greens party have publicly announced that they intend to shoot down the Coalition government’s proposed changes to visa sponsorship rules, by launching a disallowance motion in the Senate.
A spokesperson for the Greens has said that the party is confident that the bill will find support from minor crossbenchers if Labor can be convinced to sign on.
Labor’s support is largely expected, as the party have already characterised the Coalition’s proposed changes as a “stealth attack” on migrant families. However, so far Labor has refused to comment on whether or not they will commit to a disallowance motion.
The government’s proposed changes have already caused significant anxiety in the local migrant community, with many fearing that they will be affected after having already spent years waiting in the Australian visa processing queue.
A senator for the Greens, Nick McKim, has been highly critical of the government’s latest attempt to tighten visa sponsorship rules, saying that “this change goes far too far”.
“There are already significant assurances that need to be given. This is simply a punitive move designed to put a roadblock in place to make it more difficult for people to reunite with their family members in Australia. We will move to disallow it in the Senate and we would urge Labor and the crossbench to join with us,” McKim said.
“The government can play all the semantic games that it likes but the effect of these changes is in fact retrospective.”
“It’s going to impact on tens of thousands of people who just want to be together with their families, many of whom have made plans under the old framework and now are having the goalposts moved on them,” he said.
The government’s proposed changes—which would raise the annual income threshold for a single person sponsoring two parents from $35,793 to $86,607, while couples would require a combined income of $115,476—were originally introduced as a legislative instrument. This means that the government does not require the bill to pass through the Parliament before it becomes law.
However, legislative instruments of this nature can also by “disallowed” in the Senate, if a majority vote can be secured. The Greens have said that they are currently planning to introduce the motion when Parliament sits this week to discuss the federal budget.
The changes are also expected to increase wait times for parent visa processing, which typically takes three years. Although in some cases certain visa types can take as long as 30 years to be processed and approved.
The Minister for Social Services, Dan Tehan, has said that the changes “will not be applied retrospectively” and that any Assurance of Support applications lodged with Centrelink before April 1 would be assessed under the previous rules.
“The Australian Government wants to ensure newly-arrived migrants have the financial capacity to support themselves, while also ensuring the social security system remains sustainable,” Tehan said.
A Senior Migration Agent for Absolute Immigration, Grant Frankcombe, characterised the government’s proposed changes as unnecessary, and said that applicants who have already lodged should not be affected retroactively if the legislation is passed.
“While we understand the need for aged parents coming to Australia to make a contribution, the costs associated with Contributory Parent Visas are already substantive, and any changes shouldn’t apply to existing applications,” Frankcombe said.
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