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Migration System Review to spark Major Visa Overhaul

Diterbitkan Kamis, 20 Juni 2024

A major review of the country’s struggling visa system has been handed to the government, setting up what is likely to be the biggest overhaul of Australia’s migration settings in decades.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil confirmed she had received the report from former public service chief Martin Parkinson and was preparing to make some or all of its content public ahead of the federal budget.

Dr Parkinson led the review, announced in November, alongside University of Adelaide law professor and temporary labour migration expert Joanna Howe, and former Deloitte partner John Azarias.

Announcing plans to convert 50 labour hire call centre positions within the Department of Home Affairs’ translating and interpreting service to permanent, ongoing public service jobs, Ms O’Neil and Immigration Minister Andrew Giles criticised the former Morrison government’s handling of the migration system, describing it as “fundamentally broken”.

“A backlog of 1 million unprocessed visas in the middle of the biggest labour shortage that we have experienced in 70 years, a system that is rife with exploitation of migrant workers, which is not working for business, not working for migrants and not working for Australians,” Ms O’Neil said.

Business-friendly solutions such as reduced red tape and an end to some labour market testing rules are expected among the review’s recommendations.
“One of the most important things the Australian government does is decide who we invite to join us in our national endeavour as a country and we should pay proper time and care and attention to that,” Ms O’Neil said.

“That’s not what we saw under the previous government.”

Changes for the translating and interpreting call centre workers are among early moves by Labor to cut the government’s consulting, contracting and labour hire bill by as much as $3 billion over four years.

The Community and Public Sector Union said fewer than 20 per cent of roles at the service – provided for people who do not speak English and for government agencies speaking to migrants – were permanent public service roles.

Ahead of last year’s federal election, Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Finance Minister Katy Gallagher promised savings from the outsourcing bill of about 10 per cent in the first year of an Albanese government.

AusTender data showed the Morrison government entered into deals worth almost $2.7 billion on contractors and labour-hire staff since mid-2021. This is in addition to the $1.3 billion in contracts signed with the five biggest consulting firms.

Ms O’Neil said inappropriate and “prolific use” of expensive labour hire services had undermined secure employment.

“We saw really good quality public service jobs, where citizens are simply trying to help their country, converted into jobs that people couldn’t count on.

“The impacts of that are we’ve got people who can’t get a home loan, people who can’t afford to buy a car.”

The Parkinson review comes amid a halving of unprocessed visas and a drop in processing times for some skilled worker authorisations.

The government has stressed solutions to the problems faced by worker-starved businesses will not be quickly resolved.

In a discussion paper, Treasury conceded that the migration system had become difficult to administer and near impossible to navigate, with more than 70 unique visa programs, each with complex criteria and subcategories and hundreds of individual labour agreements and skilled occupation lists sitting over the top.