Family Reunion: Not a distant dream anymore for Australian migrants?

Alex Hawke addresses the Indian community on long term parent visa reforms. NEHAL CHHATRAPATI reports

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Alex Hawke.Indian Link

In the wake of a recent announcement by the Australian Government about the new temporary sponsored parent visa for parents of Australians, Alex Hawke, Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, addressed the Indian community in a function at Dural.

The Federation of Indian Associations of NSW (FIAN) organised the Q &A forum for Indian community to come together, share their views and interact with Hawke on the subject.

Attendees of the forum had various queries ranging from the costs of the visa to the balance of family criteria of the visa.

Throwing some light on the challenges that the Immigration department faces, Hawke provided some interesting statistics.

  • At any point of time, there are about 600,000 Kiwis living in Australia
  • About 600,000 foreign students come to Australia every year
  • Australia welcomes as many as 200,000 migrants per year
  • The average cost of healthcare of an Australian’s migrant parent is approximately $400,000

Responding to the concerns of community over the high fees of the visa, Hawke mentioned that it’s fair and reasonable, considering the burden it puts on the Australian healthcare system and the struggles that Medicare is already facing.

Also, the new visa will allow a continuous stay for up to 5 years which will save parents a trip to India every 12 months. He also stressed the fact that the cost of $400,000 is a lot of burden on the current taxpayers and hence the fee is justifiable.

One of the attendees raised concerns on the timing that tourist visa approval process takes, while immigration department takes into consideration national security, determine genuine visitors and regular offenders. Hawke stated, “One of the big steps we took this year was online lodgement. It’s my answer to this solution where we have put data management and technology together to better manage the concerns on national security, dodgy applications etc.” Clarifying the Immigration Department’s stance further, he stated, “Every time someone does something wrong, from any community, they are making it hard for the next people to come in.”

The interactive session also heard a very interesting comment about accessing the aged care facilities here. The audience echoed the common problem that the community faces when parents come visiting to access these facilities apart from going through the visa issues.

There were also some comparisons made with visa processes in other countries like Canada being easier than Australia. Harmeet Singh Hora, one of the attendees, said, “I am proud to be an Australian who is living here for the last 15 years, but am disappointed that I cannot get my parents to be here with me as easily as a Canadian can, and it’s hard to explain this to my folks.” To this, Yadu Singh, President of FIAN replied, echoing the minister, “We have to remember that the healthcare cost of each parent visiting us is $400,000 and this is incurred by someone who has not paid taxes in this country. Although this is a valid expectation for someone who has lived here for so long and paid their taxes diligently, there are a large number of people who have come here at a very young age and have got young parents who would like to visit too.”

Giving an example, Hawke said, “If you consider a 50-year-old parent who plans to retire and live in this country with their children and expecting that they are going to live till 90, it will be a huge burden on healthcare system and we want the rights to be equal for everyone.”

Overall, it was a very interesting interaction and the community was satisfied with the responses the Minister provided and the plans and vision of the Immigration and Border Protection he shared.

The forum ended on a hopeful note of the law being passed by the end of this year to allow us to enjoy a family reunion that every migrant is looking forward to.