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  • Writer's pictureDessie

The problems with Australia's current migration system

On 27 April the Hon Clare O’Neil Minister for Home Affairs addressed the National Press Club on Australia’s migration system which she said had helped the country become more prosperous, but it was not true of our system today, it was suffering from a decade of neglect.

“It is broken. It is failing our businesses; it is failing migrants themselves. And most importantly, it is failing Australians,” she said. “That cannot continue. Because we face big national challenges that migration can help us resolve.

“Our economy is stuck in a productivity rut, and Australians are suffering because of it. Migration can help us change that.”

She went on to say that in November last year, the Federal government had asked former Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Dr Martin Parkinson, to work with two of Australia’s foremost migration experts, Professor Joanna Howe and John Azarias, and help our government get this program working in the national interest. That report was released on 27 April hence the address to the National Press Club.

“Today, our system is dominated by a large temporary migration program. And that program is not well designed,” Ms O’Neil said.

“The tools which are meant to ensure that temporary migrants have the skills we need are broken and back-to-front."

“To determine skills needs, we use outdated occupation lists that don’t reflect the needs of the economy, and labour market testing that both unions and business agree isn’t working."

“The effect of many of these rules is that we often miss out on the highly skilled workers we need."

“We use an income threshold to ensure the temporary workers who come here are skilled. Almost 10 years ago, that threshold was frozen by the former government at $53,900. This is below the earnings of 90% of Australia’s fulltime workers.”

Ms O’Neil went on to say: “The second big problem is that our migration system has become a bureaucratic nightmare."

“Our system is slow and crazily complex. This has real consequences for the quality of our migration program."

“We have hundreds of visa categories and subcategories."

“It is a mess of three-digit visa codes – the 186, the 864, the 408 – so complicated that if I drew you a diagram it would look like a tangled bowl of spaghetti."

“We have a visa class for just about everything, including one specifically for the crew of superyachts."

“Add more than 1,300 separate labour agreements, rigid occupation lists incapable of adjusting fast enough to industries like the tech sector, and an achingly slow process to recognise skills and qualifications earned in other countries, and you get a system weighed down by rules, forms and bureaucracy."

“Large businesses with massive HR Departments find this system impossible to navigate. And small businesses have got Buckley’s Chance of being able to use it to fill a skills gap.”

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