Update on Australia’s migration system: A need for ‘major reform’

At the National Press Club today, the Hon. Clare O’Neil, Minister for Home Affairs, provided an update on Australia’s current ‘broken’ migration system, highlighting the urgent need to reform existing programmes, processes, and pathways, as well as announcing two key actions to be implemented by the end of 2023. This includes an increase to the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT), and pathways for permanent residency, in order to attract the best workers, drive economic growth, and protect against exploitation (of workers, and of the system).

The Minister stated that historical migration success was rooted in permanent residency and citizenship – not ‘permanent temporary residence’ – and that today’s system is dominated by large temporary migration programmes that are not well designed, complex, difficult to navigate, and not attractive enough to compete for highly skilled migrants with other developed nations.

Based on the 200-page Review of the Migration System: Final Report 2023, the Minister identified that the existing migration system is not delivering the skills needed to meet the challenges of Australia’s national endeavours. There are currently hundreds of visa subclasses, 1300 separate labour agreements, and rigid occupation lists that are incapable of adjusting to changing demands; it is a system laden with rules, forms, and bureaucracy.

Minister O’Neil expressed a need to redesign the system to “get more skills to Australia”, suggesting that a new Australian Migration Strategy should consider three new pathways, tightly tailored to include:

  1. Fast and simple pathway for specialised skilled workers who will build Australia’s innovation and job creation industries;
  2. Mainstream skilled pathways that is informed by, and focuses on, evidence-based data on labour shortages
  3. Reformed points test system to emphasise on skills and experience, and leverages off skilled partners, rather than ‘persistent’ migrants (think those who resit and resit English tests to obtain high scores, and points for being single, etc).

Of note is the government’s commitment to reduce the number of visa subclasses to facilitate more streamlined processing and reduction in processing times. Migration reforms would also include giving skilled migrants more flexibility to change employers and enforce their workplace rights. It would also ensure that high performing students have options to stay permanently, whether this translates to faster pathways, or other alternatives, for this cohort. This would incentivise, and retain, high performing international student who are highly employable when they enter the workforce and start contributing to the Australian economy.

Most importantly, the Minister – to show commitment and the urgent need for reforms – announced two key actions:

  1. As of 1st July 2023, the TSMIT will increase to AU$70,000 from AU$53,900; and
  2. By the end of 2023, all skilled temporary workers will have a pathway to permanent residency.

How these two actions will be implements and legislated remains to be seen but Ashton Legal is optimistic that this will permit more migrants to seek permanent residency and be protected from worker exploitation under the current system. More information will be provided as they become available so watch this space.

From the Minister’s address today, it seems there are more changes to coming to the migration system. Ashton Legal will advise our fellow readers as soon as we know.

If you have any questions, queries or concerns, please contact us.

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