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  • Writer's pictureDessie

Repairing Australia's broken immigration system

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil recently flagged an independent review of Australia’s ‘broken’ immigration system saying that the system was being exploited. The Minister was following up after reports of visa rorting, foreign worker exploitation and revelations about possible human trafficking. All things that would be distasteful to most Australian and overseas citizens.

Former bureaucrat Martin Parkinson, labour migration legal expert Joanna Howe and former Skilled Migration Ministerial Advisory Council member John Azarias will carry out the review. The terms of reference for the review say its goal is to "develop a holistic strategy that articulates the purpose, structure and objectives of Australia's migration system to ensure it meets the national interest in the coming decades”.

An interim report is due by 28 February 2023 and will contain recommendations to come into play at next year’s budget in May 2023. However, the review will not examine the number of visas offered simply the processes, as the number of permanent skilled migration visas are reviewed annually by the government but the mix between temporary and permanent migration will be reviewed by the panel.

Minister O’Neil blamed Opposition Leader Peter Dutton for much of the problems in immigration that are now being addressed saying he had been playing the ‘tough guy’ about borders while the system was failing.

Minister O'Neil is hopeful of being able to reform the system to make it simple, less expensive and faster.

It was touted that the new system may make way for a more demand-driven immigration system driven by industry and that skilled occupation lists may go, as would many visa sub-categories. Australia has more than 70 visa categories and each has its own criteria and subcategories. Minister O’Neil called the system a Byzantine mess.

The current international fight for global talent is driving this, as many countries offer incentives for skilled workers to migrate. In September the jobs summit was punctuated by calls to entice more skilled workers to Australia, but other countries are doing a far better job and Australia needs to get its act right.

If people have got real choices about where they are going to live, and the wait time to get into Australia is two years or the wait time to get into Canada is five days, then we’re not in with a chance in that contest,” Minister O’Neil told the Australian Financial Review.

It is expected that the review would also touch on how to best retain international students who have trained here at our universities.

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