MEMBER for Mallee Andrew Broad has joined a bi-partisan effort to increase Australia’s sponsored refugee intake and has pointed to Nhill as an example.
Labor Member for Gellibrand Tim Watts moved a motion on Monday that governments, businesses and community organisations explore ways to use private sponsorship to expand the resettlement of refugees.
Mr Broad was one of two Coalition members who spoke in favour of the motion and used Nhill’s Karen people as an example of a successful refugee program.
“Nhill could not get people to work in Luv-a-Duck, to expand their employment opportunities. The kindergarten was nearly shut down and the school was not full,” Mr Broad said in Parliament.
“A guy by the name of John Millington, who was a compassionate man, with the assistance of his wife, began to look at how we could sponsor and bring refugees in to fill a labour force.
“But it has turned out to be so much more than that. It has turned out to be something that has not only brought a labour force into the town but changed the culture of the town and opened the hearts of the people in the town.”
Mr Broad told the ABC that he wanted to see the sponsored refugee resettlement program expanded from 1000 to 10,000 people per year.
Mr Broad later told the Mail-Times that sponsored resettlement should be increased on a case-by-case basis and there should not be hard number.
“I don’t know if that’s the way to determine it, to pluck a figure from the air and say we must have 10,000 overnight.
“I think you match it up with demand and when you have got people settled and in employment you move on to the next and then gradually increase the numbers.
“At the moment I don’t think people are aware that this type of visa exists; when they become aware of it they can use it and there has to be market testing to ensure they’re not filling jobs that Australians should be filling.”
Mr Broad said an increase in sponsored refugee intake was not contrary to a hardline approach to border security.
“I’m not here to pull the party line; never have and never will,” he said.
“I don’t think this is contrary to a strong border policy. I think a strong border integrity policy is welcome. I don’t think this is contrary to what we have done on 457 visas, because that is essentially skilled labour.
“This is a little bit different. I don’t see it as contrary to what the country is doing.”
Nhill took in 160 Karen refugees from 2009 to 2014 and the community now has more than 200.
Mr Watts’ motion was debated in the Federation Chamber, which considers items in parallel with the House of Representatives.
At the time of publication, debate on the motion had been adjourned.
Mr Broad told Parliament that Nhill’s success had helped the Karen people escape persecution in refugee camps along the Thailand-Myanmar border, and also helped the economy.
“There has been a recent report that it has also contributed $41 million to the economic activity of a town of about 3,000 people,” he said.
“It is extraordinary. The school is now full and the kindergarten is now full. It is very hard to find a house, and in fact there are new houses being built in this town.”
Liberal Member for McMillan Russell Broadbent said sponsored refugees had a higher chance of successful resettlement.
“The community want a desired outcome because they have sponsored it; it has cost them money,” he said.
“They want an outcome from those people, but what it causes within that community—which the Member for Mallee raised without actually saying it—is that it enhances the relationships between the refugee and the broader community.”
Mr Broad also praised the people of Nhill for being part of the solution.