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July 09, 2021

Scott Morrison’s refusal to take responsibility is one of the defining characteristics of his Government and now Foreign Minister Marise Payne is ducking responsibility for helping all those who helped Australia in Afghanistan.

This morning, Minister Payne told ABC Radio that “we're not going to leave behind anyone who worked for us and who is properly eligible.”

This tricky response ignores the fact that the Minister has already ruled that hundreds of Afghans who worked on Australian-funded “hearts and minds” projects would not be eligible because they were employed as contractors.

Instead the Minister has suggested these workers apply through the regular Humanitarian Visa stream. The Home Affairs website warns for this category “the decision process could take many months, or even years.”

These people have had their lives threatened and whether they were directly employed or contractors of the Australian Government will not matter to the Taliban.

The Morrison Government’s divisive, two-tiered approach stands in contrast to former Prime Minister John Howard who has said the safety of these staff is not “something that should turn on some narrow legalism.”

It also pales in comparison to the UK, which has fast-tracked its approval process and has said anyone at serious risk of threat to life will be offered priority relocation to the UK regardless of their employment status.

We are very disappointed that the Government has today refused to allow Defence officials to brief Senator Wong on this serious issue. Labor will continue to advocate for some decency and fairness in Australia’s response.

Mr Morrison is using weasel words to hide his Government’s go-slow to help these Afghans who were there for Australians when we needed it.

When faced with extraordinary circumstances in the past, both Labor and Liberal Governments have worked quickly to help those in need.

Australia’s urgent withdrawal from our longest conflict is such a circumstance - but the Morrison Government is failing to step up and take responsibility.