Twenty thousand people—that is the approximate number of residents in Melbourne's south-east who attended the department of immigration office in Dandenong over the past year.
Twenty thousand people—that is the approximate number of residents in Melbourne's south-east who attended the department of immigration office in Dandenong over the past year. Twenty thousand people is the number of people who because of the Turnbull government's shameful decision to close this office in Dandenong will now have to get on a train or drive 35 kilometres down the Monash Freeway to attend the department's office in Melbourne's CBD. Let me mention a few more numbers: $212,000 is the reported annual rent for this building in Dandenong that provided a close to home contact point for 20,000 local residents in the past year.
$250 million is the reported price tag for the upgrade that Peter Dutton wants for the department of immigration's head office in Canberra. At $212,000 per year, the government could pay rent for over 1,100 years for the Dandenong office and it would still not cost the same amount as the upgrade to the Canberra office. We all know where this government's priorities lie—and it is not Melbourne's south-east. It is a petty and pathetic act by this government to close an office that provides an essential service to one of Australia's most multicultural communities. I can assure the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection that Melbourne's south-east will not forget this attack on our community.
The great irony, of course, is that this government has a declared agenda of decentralisation—of moving public services out of Canberra and the CBDs of our major cities and into outer suburban and regional areas—but here we have the perfect example of decentralisation at work: an office 35 kilometres from Melbourne's CBD that has, for years, ably served Melbourne's south-east and saved thousands upon thousands of unnecessary drives and train trips to the city. The department's website is not a substitute for the personal contact provided by the Dandenong office, particularly for those people whose command of English is limited. The Dandenong office plays a key role in the Dandenong community, one of the most multicultural cities in Australia and one where a high number of its residents use the services offered by the department of immigration on a regular basis. Shamefully, the government ran no consultation with the Greater Dandenong community before deciding to close this office that has supported tens of thousands of local families. Only a government that knows nothing about Greater Dandenong and Melbourne's south-east would make this decision.
I invite the minister for immigration to join me and my colleagues the member for Bruce, the member for Hotham and the member for Holt in Dandenong to learn about this great community and why it needs a department of immigration office right there on Thomas Street in Dandenong. Labor will always support public and social services in our suburbs. It is a tragedy for millions of Australians that the Liberals cannot say the same.