Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil has announced major policy reforms to overhaul Australia’s migration system.
Minister O’Neil said, “We’re not just proposing a pathway and a plan – we’re going to put a down payment on the system we want to build by taking the first set of actions in the coming federal Budget.”
“As of July 1, the temporary skilled migration income threshold, or the ‘TSMIT’, will increase to $53,900 to $70,000.”
“I can announce that as by the end of 2023, all temporary skilled workers will have a pathway to permanent residency.”
“These two changes show we’re serious about the reform agenda ahead,” she said.
This does not mean an expansion of Australia’s capped permanent program. It does not mean more people. It simply means that a group of temporary workers who had been denied even the opportunity to apply for permanent residency will be able to do so.
“We want to increase competition for permanent resident places and ensure we don’t leave more workers in limbo, bouncing from visa to visa,” Minister O’Neil added.
Minister O’Neil said the government will work to create a three-tiered skilled migration system for the country for the first time.
The three-pronged model
- First will create a highly skilled stream with fast turn-around times.
- In the middle stream, decision-making will be linked to Jobs and Skills Australia to ensure a data-driven approach.
- A final pathway will address chronic shortages in the lower-paid care sector.
Her announcements came after a review found the migration program was “not fit for purpose”, that it was failing to attract the most skilled people, and was failing to give businesses efficient access to workers.
This announcement has raised the wages for temporary skilled migrants in Australia by about $16,000 from July 1, and thousands will be eligible for permanent residency by the end of the year.
Ms O’Neil said the points test would be reformed to actively recruit highly skilled migrants by setting up a new area in the Home Affairs Department, which will work with a newly formed Jobs and Skills body.
She said hundreds of visa categories and sub-categories would also be reduced and simplified.
Migration agents duping international students will also be highly scrutinised.
Former senior public servant Martin Parkinson, who led the expert panel, said the system wasn’t doing the job it was supposed to do.
The panel handed down 38 policy reform considerations to the government.
There are now more than 1.8 million temporary migrants living in Australia with the right to work, with many facing “tangled” and lengthy pathways to permanent residence.
Dr Parkinson said for employers in tech-based industries, the skills list was out of date and was compiled when many new jobs had not yet been created.
The report says Australia risked falling behind other developed immigrant countries such as Canada, and faced more global competition for highly skilled migrants.
Some employer groups have called for looser restrictions on skilled migration caps and target industries, while others want a rethink of English language requirements and rules regarding post-study employment.
The Settlement Council of Australia said, “We welcome this review, which gives voice to concerns we have been expressing for a long time.”
“We have always relied on migrants for our economic prosperity, but it has got to be a two-way street,” said the council’s CEO Sandra Elhelw Wright.
“There is a lot of work to do to make sure our migration system is fair, and delivers on its promises both to migrants and to our nation.”
Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley said the government needed to ensure the new policies did not put undue pressure on the already stretched rental housing market.
Opposition home affairs spokesman James Paterson said Australia was a richer country because of the millions of migrants who had come to its shores.
But the size, composition and timing of the migration intake were “legitimate areas for public debate”, he told Sky News.