For the first time in my role as the Federal Member for Aston, I was honoured to be part of a recent citizenship ceremony held in the performing arts centre at Rowville Secondary College. I would like to take this opportunity now to congratulate these proud new members of our community on receiving their Australian citizenship and welcome them officially to our country—and, indeed, to the electorate of Aston.
The mayor of Knox City Council, Marcia Timmers-Leitch, presided over the ceremony, welcoming our 251 newest Australian citizens. We had a moving welcome-to-country ceremony conducted by Uncle Ringo Terrick. I wish to acknowledge my friend and colleague the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Hon. Andrew Giles, and thank him for visiting my electorate for that special occasion. Isn't it wonderful to have a minister who understands the immigration system, who wants to see our citizenship grow and who cares about multicultural communities?
In the last year, over 173,000 people became Australian citizens by conferral, a huge increase on the year before. This was only possible because of the work of the Albanese government. The Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon. Clare O'Neil, has been doing the work to bring Australia's migration system back on track after nine years of the previous Liberal government's dysfunction. These are real people in Australian society, not to be used for fearmongering and dog-whistling purposes by the current Leader of the Opposition.
The community of Aston is vibrant, it is strengthened by multiculturalism, and we are proud of our diversity. We are home to the world's oldest continuous cultures as well as Australians who identify with more than 300 ancestries and who speak more than 400 languages, including First Nations languages. Around one-third of the local community in Aston were born overseas and speak a language other than English at home. From every culture, every race, every faith and every nation, migrants make an enormous contribution to Australia in so many ways. It's what makes our country such a great place to live.
When people from other countries make the decision to migrate to Australia, it is often for reasons such as building a better life for themselves and their families, and I am sure they don't expect to be treated any differently to Australian citizens. Imagine, then, their shock when finding work here and then discovering they're being paid way less than other workers alongside them or are being treated unfairly because they're migrant workers. I'm proud to be part of a government that isn't afraid to crack down on dodgy business practices that exploit migrant workers. After a decade of neglect under the Liberals, the Albanese Labor Government is taking steps to ensure migrant workers enjoy fair wages and conditions. For example, I was recently paid a visit by a delegation of workers in my office here in Canberra, and one of those workers, who was from WA, told me that a large company pays its migrant workers a rate of $27 a day. Whether it's a four-, six-, eight- or even 16-hour day, they get paid. $27 for a day's work. How is that fair?
To quote Minister Giles:
There is a crisis of exploitation, with up to one in six recent migrants paid less than the minimum wage.
When migrant workers are being underpaid—it hurts all of us, driving wages and conditions down for everyone.
In the coming weeks, I will welcome the introduction into parliament of Minister Giles's legislation that will deal with unscrupulous employers and their exploitative practices. The Albanese government is also committed to supporting exploited workers who speak out. The government will consult with business, unions and civil society on whistleblower protections for temporary visa holders and on strengthening the firewall between the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Department of Home Affairs, because migrant workers deserve a fair go too.
The Albanese Government's vision is for a targeted, simpler migration system that serves our national interests and helps migrants thrive in our society and economy. I welcome this and also want to see migrants become Australian citizens one day. What better way to show how much we as a country value their contribution than having these unfair work practices that target migrant workers stamped out?