Is Australian migration a broken system?
It is, according to the Minister for Home Affairs, the Honourable Clare O’Neil MP, describing a ‘broken migration system’ as she announced sweeping changes recently, in line with recommendations from former senior bureaucrat, Martin Parkinson.
The COVID-enforced border closures from 2020 have played havoc with world travel, and while the COVID threat continues to varying degrees, at least borders are opening again. In 2020-21 Australia’s net overseas migration (NOM) – the difference between incoming and outgoing migrant numbers – went into negative territory at minus 85,000. It is only the second time for such an occurrence, the last occasion being a result of WW1 and the Spanish flu epidemic.
With borders opening, a pent-up demand for student and temporary work visas has seen projected NOM numbers rise to 400,000 for 2022-23, and after this initial surge, a respectable 315,000 for 2023-24. While these numbers seem impressive, given the pre-pandemic figure of less than 200,000, and the 2022-23 budget forecast of 235,000, the pandemic has caused a reset in the NOM trend-line, with overall forecast numbers not being retained until 2029-30.
One part of the system that is broken, would seem to be the mid-2022 backlog of 1 million VISA applications. The incoming Federal Government made a firm pledge to reduce that figure, and it has since been reduced to 600,000.
Swings and roundabouts
While debate continues about the effect of such migration on an already strained housing situation, the other side of the argument presents a picture of dire staff shortages throughout a range of businesses.
The Parkinson review highlights the need to go way beyond the headline NOM number and look under the hood at the structure of the system.
For example, the temporary skilled migration income threshold (TSMIT) has been set at $53,900 for years. It is the amount that an employer must pay to a sponsored worker, and is also the minimum amount for an employer-sponsored permanent migration placement. While the numbers of migrants working under these arrangements is not huge, it does allow for remuneration way below average earnings to be paid to a worker who is bound by the rules if they wish to stay in Australia. The Government has announced that this amount will rise to $70,000 from July 1, the figure that would have applied if the $53,900 had been indexed all along.
A further change coming into effect in July is the reduction in the number of hours per week that a temporary skills visa holder can work. These visas are generally the domain of international students or those on a working holiday. The current, virtually unlimited, work rights that have applied during the pandemic will be reduced to 24 hours per week in an effort to curtail the virtual flood of low skilled applicants who are generally either students or people on working holidays.
The 2022-23 skilled migration program
The increased numbers of the program are designed to place an emphasis on skilled workers, in an attempt to reduce critical workforce shortages, and provide more certainty of permanency. While this increase may seem at odds with an already significant backlog, the Government has also approved funds to provide 500 additional processing staff.
A further change is in the Family stream of visas, with an estimate of 40,500 partner visas – significantly, there is no cap on this number. Good news for many applicants.
The 2023 changes to the migration program are significant and timely. Obtain migration law advice to keep abreast of unfolding changes.
In the event that you find yourself in need of assistance, please contact the law offices of Owen Hodge Lawyers. At Owen Hodge, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.