The health system is desperate for nurses, doctors and skilled health workers who are waiting for visas. Universities are desperate for researchers and global talent is waiting for visas. The international education sector was our fourth-biggest export sector, and yet universities and private providers and TAFEs are screaming about students missing the start of semester yet again, while our competitors in the US, Canada and the UK are steaming ahead, stealing our students.
Families and people who fall in love with someone from overseas are waiting for one, two, three or four years in some cases for a visa for their loved one. I've lost count of the number of people who have never met their own children because of the former government's negligence. These are people from countries that don't give visitor visas, so they might have conceived the child in a third country, and now they're stuck here, waiting, waiting, waiting for years for a visa to meet their own child. Relatives are dying and special occasions like weddings and anniversaries are being missed because now there's a crisis in visitor visas.
It's like a game of Whac-A-Mole. We go over to try and fix one problem, and then another arises. But the fact is the previous government cut thousands of staff over a decade. Desperate, vulnerable people fleeing war and persecution, most especially in my community, are faced with the choked visa system in the humanitarian stream.
My electorate has more people born in Afghanistan than any other electorate. I don't have time to describe to the House in detail the human misery that is my front foyer every day, as people worry about their relatives being hunted by the Taliban because this miserable Liberal National Party government did not process their visas. It is the former government's fault. We had 10 years of neglect and cuts, and more cuts were baked into the last budget, in March, which, if we do nothing, will see more staff cut next year from the department.
You can't fix 10 years of damage in 10 weeks, but Labor is taking responsibility and I will keep speaking up—perhaps to the pain of the relevant ministers, but I'll keep speaking up. I'm pleased that the minister confirmed the processing backlog is an urgent priority. He's directed the department to devote more staff to this. Nearly 140 new staff since May have been put on board; a surge capacity has been established; there has been a 10 per cent increase in applications finalised in June compared to May. That's a good start, but it is a drop in the ocean of what's going to be needed to clear this dreadful backlog. There's a long way to go.
There's other critical policy work in our national platform that Labor is committed to, including giving genuine refugees permanent protection in this country and moving them off the cruel TPV-SHEV visa system. People have been here for 10 years, working and paying taxes; 87 per cent of them are employed full time or are running businesses, so the department tells us. They are separated from their families and missing their children growing up.
It does our country no good to have a permanently temporary underclass of people—living here, working, in the community, but never able to participate fully or become citizens of this country. The Labor government will fix this. We're working on it. It's going to take time.
In summary, it is so easy in life to destroy things. You can knock a house down, but then it takes months or years to rebuild. That's what we're facing with the visa crisis. It's going to take years to clear the backlog, to recruit staff, to skill them, to security clear them and to train them, but we've started the job.