Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Minister Alan Tudge has told a group discussion in Perth that white agriculturists in South Africa who fear mistreatment can apply to come to Australia under existing humanitarian and skilled work visas.
The largely South African group imparted to Mr Tudge nerve racking stories of oppression and approached the Federal Government to allow white South African agriculturists helpful visas.
Mr Tudge confirmed Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton was “looking at the program” to see if more South Africans could be brought to Australia, but it is unclear which area of the visa program is under consideration.
But he told the crowd in the southern Perth suburb of Mandurah that there was “considerable flexibility” in the current immigration system.
While Mr Tudge was the government’s official representative at the forum, the meeting was also addressed by two Liberal backbenchers who reportedly support a special intervention for South African farmers: Ian Goodenough and Andrew Hastie.
Mr Goodenough told the West Australian newspaper he supported a special refugee intake of around 10,000 South Africans, similar to the Abbott Government’s decision to accept a “special” intake of 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees on top of the regular intake in response to the bloody war in the Middle East.
“I don’t want to put a figure on it,” Mr Hastie told SBS News at the event on Wednesday night.
“But certainly I think the message tonight for the government is that … the situation is just as bad as reported, and we need to take some sort of action.”
The forum, attended by up to 400 people, was organised last month following comments from Mr Dutton, who said white farmers in South Africa were being persecuted and should be given some kind of special consideration.
Mr Tudge flew over from Melbourne to attend the event and discuss the situation with the audience, with some people travelling up to two hours to participate.
“We would have had probably 400 people here, maybe more,” he said.
“It’s a very passionate crowd and people told some very emotional stories about the conditions which are occurring to their loved ones, their friends, their family in South Africa.”
Mr Dutton’s comments sparked an angry rebuke from South Africa, which denied white farmers faced persecution.
Labor and the Greens have accused Mr Dutton of ‘dog-whistling’ to racist voters by elevating white farmers in South Africa above humanitarian crises around the world.