Johannesburg – An Australian senator who came out in support of Australian Minister of Home Affairs Peter Dutton's comments on visas for white South African farmers has said his aim was to ensure the government was "generous in its consideration" of visas for South Africans.
Liberal Democratic Party senator David Leyonhjelm wrote to Dutton last week that he should "exercise [his] powers under the Migration Act to issue appropriate visas to allow resettlement of these farmers and their families in Australia".
He told News24 on Tuesday that Australia had three broad categories for visas and that South Africans who applied for visas would likely apply for two of the categories.
"Quite a lot of South Africans have made Australia their home under the family reunion and skilled visa categories. I anticipate this will continue, and farmers fleeing violence and dispossession of their farms are likely to pursue this option in the first instance," he said.
"Given they are educated and skilled, it is likely many would be granted a visa. My aim is to ensure the Australian government is generous in its consideration of these applications."
Leyonhjelm said Australia took in between 14 000 and 20 000 refugees each year under the humanitarian visa category.
"Things would need to deteriorate pretty markedly in South Africa for white farmers to be granted refugee status. But if that happened, I'd certainly support accepting them under this visa category," he said.
"However, obviously I would much prefer the South African government protected the lives and property of all South Africans. As Zimbabwe has clearly shown, there are no gains for anyone from forcing white farmers from their land."
Dutton said last week the Australian government would consider "special attention" for white South African farmers due to the "horrific circumstances" of land seizures and violence.
He said he would consider requesting his department to fast-track visas for South Africans to Australia on humanitarian or other visa programmes.
His comments led to a diplomatic spat between the two countries, and last Thursday International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu issued a diplomatic demarche – or course of action – to the Australian High Commissioner in South Africa, Adam McCarthy, to demand a retraction of the comments by Dutton.