The Jobs and Skills Summit last week held few genuine surprises but provided some welcome relief. The yearly migration cap was widely requested (in some cases demanded) to be increased to 200,000 with support funding to be increased. The summit announced an increase of 35,000 migrant places this year, bringing the total to 195,000 places. It’s worth noting that regional places went up 25% to 34,000 and State and Territory place allocations went up nearly 65% to 31,000. Funding in visa support and processing areas received a $36.1 million dollar boost which allows staff numbers to be increased by 500 people over the next nine months.
The Hon Andrew Giles, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs and Hon Clare O’Neil, Minister for Home Affairs, made the announcements on day 2 of the Summit. A full review of the migration program is to be led by Brian Schmidt, who is Vice Chancellor of the ANU.
Several areas discussed at the Summit were identified as priorities, including:
- the overall number of migrants allowed;
- improving visa processing times;
- university graduates being allowed to work longer in Australia;
- raising the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT);
- reassessing state occupation lists; and
- moving away from temporary migration to more permanent residency focused pathways.
Mr Giles was frustrated with the lack of action from the previous government, as mentioned in his speech at the Sydney policy Lab just one week earlier. He mentioned their expensive efforts to privatise the visa system and how he thinks “Visa processing is an essential – and fundamental – function of national government”.
Mr Giles was concerned that other countries were doing a much better job of enticing skilled workers and that “Australia is currently losing these people to other countries as prospective workers get sick of waiting for a visa, and businesses face more and more uncertainty, falling behind overseas rivals.” Bridging visas were also mentioned, “Typically, 40,000 to 80,000 people have held a bridging visa at any point in time. Today, there are over 330,000 people on bridging visas.”
Many of the numbers from the previous government were not good, suggesting nearly 1 million visas were awaiting processing, and Mr Giles commented “Good governance demands a figure far smaller.” He stated that the backlog will eventually be cleared with close to 100,000 visas being wiped off that number already.
It appears the Labour government is determined to follow through on its promises and help clear up the Australia Immigration System. It’s a good start. And the team at No Borders hopes the improvements continue and Australia can become the number 1 migration destination on the planet once again!