Australia’s Budget supports ‘love’ if you speak English

People in love with foreign partners got some good news in the Morrison Government’s budget on Tuesday with the promise to increase the number of partner visas.

Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge told the multicultural press on Friday that the government is committed to a permanent migration program and insuring the overall cap is 160,000 people, the same cap as the last financial year.

He said “because we’ll have fewer people coming into the country, priority will be given on those already here”, adding that this is the “first time in 75 years we’ll have more people leaving the country than coming in”.

The government decided to turn its migration focus on those already here. “We have massively boosted the family proportion of the permanent migration program, almost double the number we had, specifically for partner visas,” he said.

“Most of those people are in Australia already – 75-80 per cent – and we have the opportunity to regularise their arrangements, make them permanent residents and, in the not too distance future, hopefully make them great Australians.”

Deputy Labor Leader Kristina Kenneally says the promise is just another “empty announcement until they actually deliver for Australians as the people they love”.

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As of 30 June, 100,000 Australians and 100,000 of their partners have applied for visas and are waiting for the opportunity to begin their lives together, and visa applications have been piling up in the Department of Home Affairs with 90 per cent of visa applications being processed in 27 months (30 July, 2020). Ms Kenneally said these people “can’t put down roots, get jobs, buy homes or build communities in Australia because of the Morrison Government’s go-slow partner visa processing.”

Furthermore, Labor is critical of the new English language requirements for partner visa applications and their permanent resident sponsors and how this will impact people. “Is the Morrison Government trying to force Australians to choose who they fall in love with or marry based on their English language skills?” she asked.

Shadow Multicultural Affairs Minister Andrew Giles said “the Morrison Government needs to stop playing politics with people’s relationships”.

Mr Giles spoke of “an embarrassing backflip on his partner visa test” just 24 hours after it was announced. “He still has not explained if someone fails the Morrison Government’s English language test, will they be denied a partner visa?” Mr Giles asked. “Given this backflip from the Acting Immigration Minister, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Morrison Government walks away from their cruel English language test completely.”

Speaking to the Multicultural Media on Wednesday, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Adult Migrant English Programme is removing the constraint on hours for people to learn English. “I am very aware that the lack of English language skills, particularly amongst partners, has put many of those partners at risk in Australia, at risk of domestic violence, at risk of being abused in the workplace and having their rights overtaken,” he said. “English language is absolutely critical to help people when they come to Australia to take the greatest opportunity of what life in Australia can mean and English is the passport for that to occur in Australia. And we feel very strongly about this as a Government. English unifies the country and it enables us all to connect both economically and socially.”

Functional English would mean, according to Mr Morrison, that people would be able to access government services, understand what teachers are saying at parent-teacher conference and understand their rights.

Mr Tudge said that not only would English classes be boosted in terms of quantity of hours, but that contracts with providers would be carefully reassessed to ensure that learners were offered the highest quality of lessons.