MEDIA RELEASE: AUDITOR-GENERAL’S SCATHING REPORT ON CITIZENSHIP = TOTAL ADMINISTRATIVE FAILURE
TONY BURKE MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER
SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURAL AUSTRALIA
SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS
MEMBER FOR WATSON
JULIAN HILL MP
MEMBER FOR BRUCE
AUDITOR-GENERAL’S SCATHING REPORT ON CITIZENSHIP = TOTAL ADMINISTRATIVE FAILURE
The ANAO audit report into Peter Dutton’s mega Department titled “Efficiency of the Processing of Applications for Citizenship by Conferral” is completely damning.
The Auditor-General has used unusually strong, unequivocal and unqualified language to condemn Dutton’s Department of Home Affairs, amounting to a complete and total failure in administration.
The audit found that over the past four years, the number of citizenship applications stuck in the pipeline blew out by 771 per cent, with 244,765 applications on hand at 30 June 2018.
Hundreds of thousands of Australian permanent residents, living in the community, who simply want to pledge their formal allegiance to Australia deserve much better that having their lives placed on hold by the black hole of a department.
There’s no need for colourful phrases – this report speaks for itself. The direct and damning conclusions are:
Applications for citizenship by conferral have not been processed efficiently by the Department of Home Affairs.
Applications have not been processed in a time-efficient manner.
Applications have not been processed in a resource-efficient manner.
Processing times have increased, there is an underlying decline in processing performance, and long delays are evident between applications being lodged and decisions being taken.
Significant periods of inactivity are evident for both complex and non-complex applications accepted by the department for processing.
The Department of Home Affairs has not checked the quality of its decisions in 2017-18.
The Auditor-General has called out the Department of Home Affairs for blatantly misrepresenting the facts to the Parliament at Senate Estimates, stating:
“[audit] results indicate that the complexity of applications lodged has decreased. These results are at odds with Home Affairs’ reported experience. For example, Home Affairs advised Parliament at Senate Estimates on 23 October 2017:
…we have talked to this committee before about this — that the case load complexity is rising as we are seeing a flow-through of previous humanitarian entrants. It might well be the case that there are bigger delays now because the cases we are looking at now are actually more complicated”.
The ridiculous claim by successive ministers that the delays were caused by boat arrivals has been shown to be totally false. The Auditor-General revealed that in fact applications from the humanitarian stream decreased by 9% over four years from a low base, and that “former illegal maritime arrivals” accounts for only 0.7% of lodgements in 2017-18.
The report also reveals that Dutton’s Department ignored the law, taking it upon themselves to do nothing with thousands of applications even though changes to legislation had not been agreed by the Parliament. The report states in regard to the Government’s unfair citizenship Bill:
“When they were announced, the proposed changes to the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 were to apply retrospectively to applications received from 20 April 2017 onwards. Home Affairs advised the ANAO in June 2018 that:
Staff were advised that the post 20 April applications were subject to the new requirements, however the requirements were not yet law. Therefore the applications were not able to be assessed against the existing requirements or the new ones announced by Government.”
The Abbott-Morrison-Turnbull Government’s unfair changes were rejected by the Parliament yet the Dutton’s Department has treated people appallingly, adding to delays and uncertainty.
Labor believes that our citizenship system needs to be fair, administered according to the law and the Department of Home Affairs needs to strive for efficiency.
Under the out of touch Liberal Government we’ve seen delays, an increasing backlog, a disregard for the law of the day, and gross inefficiencies. At every turn this has hurt people doing the right thing and following the rules.
TUESDAY, 12 FEBRUARY 2019