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Human trafficking still in sights despite review delay

AAPNEWS | Mon, May 15 2023 04:44 PM AEST

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Human trafficking through Australia's migration system is still in the government's sights despite the delay of an eagerly awaited report promised before the budget. 

The review was conducted by former Victorian police chief Christine Nixon after revelations of exploitation of temporary visa holders as well as human trafficking and drug smuggling by Nine newspapers.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he had received the review but it has not gone to cabinet. 

It was originally slated to be handed down before the budget.

"We will release it but we need to give it proper consideration," he told reporters in Melbourne on Monday.

"The exploitation of people is something that's abhorrent. When we ask for a review, it then leads to action. It doesn't just sit there."

Mr Albanese said his government had inherited a broken immigration system and a visa processing backlog. 

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles said the delay in handing down the report did not mean the government wasn't taking action. 

"Given the subject matter, it references stories of exploitation at work, we need to consider it absolutely, thoroughly, and give a considered response to it," he told ABC TV.

"It doesn't mean we are not already acting on the exploitation of migrant workers, acting to protect people at work regardless of their visa status."

He said the report acknowledged people in Australia on visas are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

"We have heard from time to time awful stories of exploitation. These are utterly unacceptable," he said. 

"We need to have a zero-tolerance approach to the exploitation of people in the workplace. It's an absolute priority."

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton stood by his approach to immigration while in government, and said the review process was "political". 

"This process is a joke and the senior people you speak with in the Department of Home Affairs are laughing behind the minister's back," he said.

"It's a political review and politically motivated with no substance. I would look past all of that nonsense."

He also took aim at the government's migration policy, saying there is no plan to tackle housing shortages with 1.5 million people expected to come to Australia in the next five years. 

"When you find it hard at the moment to get a rental, or you find it hard to buy a house, that problem is just going to be compounded many times because Labor is not producing any more housing stock," he said. 

But Mr Albanese hit back, saying the opposition leader was "looking around for a sense of purpose" and trying to stir up a political fight over immigration. 

He said net overseas migration was predicted to be higher in coalition budgets than the one his government handed down. 

"It's legitimate to have a debate about migration. It's legitimate to raise issues of population, but do it on the basis of fact," the prime minister told ABC Radio.

"He knows full well that the reason why there is a short-term jump in the population numbers ... is because no one was coming here while the pandemic was on. Our borders were closed."

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