IL COMITES VICTORIA E TASMANIA INVIA IL PROPRIO PARERE SUL SISTEMA MIGRATORIO AL DIPARTIMENTO DEGLI AFFARI INTERNI AUSTRALIANO
A migration system for Australia’s future
Australia: challenges and opportunities in the coming decades
The challenges facing Australia in the coming years will have an impact on the nation’s geopolitics, economy, technology, social and demographic conditions.
The migration system should be nation-building in scope and vision, not transitional, as it has been in recent decades.
The pandemic and the closure of Australia’s international borders in March 2020 have had a profound impact on the Australian workforce and on our economy. We need to be prepared for future pandemics and other natural disasters, including those connected with climate change.
We also need to plan for global conflict, the changing nature of work and the fact that we have an ageing population, which means there will be fewer workers in future to support retirees and young dependants.
Finally, Australia is facing an unprecedented teachers’ shortage and this poses enormous challenges for our education sector.
How can migration contribute to these challenges and opportunities
Skilled migrants (regardless of whether they enter Australia through temporary visa programs or the permanent intake) make a significant contribution to the Australian economy and they supplement the supply of skilled workers available to businesses and industries. Skilled migrants tend to have high participation rates in the workforce. They help to stimulate economic growth and jobs growth.
Research has confirmed that there are economic benefits from skilled migration arising from the transfer of skills to the resident Australian population. The importation of global talent may facilitate the adoption of new technologies, raise productivity and increase income per capita.
Current and potential barriers in allowing migration to play these roles
Australia urgently needs less complex and clearer pathways to permanent migration in order to reduce exploitation, uncertainty and costs for migrants. We need to reset the balance between temporary and permanent migration numbers, in favour of pathways to permanency.
Visas should not be tied to single employers but be industry-focused, to provide greater flexibility for skilled migrants and better address workplace exploitation and wage theft. Also, there should be better pre-entry education for migrant workers on their employment rights.
Industry and professional associations should be required to be more accommodating to skilled migrants in relation to skills assessments and recognition of overseas qualifications.
Suggested reforms to ensure the migration system can respond to challenges and opportunities that lie ahead
We are strongly of the view that Australia’s migration system needs a complete overhaul. The size and composition of Australia’s permanent migration intake should be based on a long-term 5 to 10-year strategic outlook rather than an annual process as part of the Federal budget cycle.
If Australia wants to attract and retain the best global talent, we must do all of the following:
Offer shorter processing times to qualify for Medicare, social security, permanency and citizenship;
Strengthen our family visa program, which will make Australia a more attractive destination for skilled migrants to settle with their families;
Improve and simplify our processes for recognition of overseas qualifications and skills assessments, to ensure the smooth and timely integration of skilled migrants;
Reduce the exorbitant costs of visa applications;
Ensure that there be greater legal certainty, so that visa applicants are not affected by sudden changes in rules after they have already applied for a visa (but before the visa has been processed or issued);
Facilitate access to Visa information through the Visa system info webpage https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/ translated in different languages.
To help us meet our changing needs as a society, we need to:
Increase the intake of bilingual skilled care workers, to cater for Australia’s ageing migrant populations;
Prioritise visa processing for qualified foreign language teachers and consider funding incentives for international teachers to work in Australia;
Encourage and incentivise the learning of foreign languages, including Italian, and intercultural exchanges, so that Australia can continue to thrive in its diversity.
A meaningful review of our migration system requires the removal of systemic barriers to prevent exploitation of migrant workers, including by ensuring that migrant workers are:
Protected from deportation or visa cancellation (threats of deportation by employers should also be punishable);
Supported to report wage theft, underpayments and other breaches of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth); and
Encouraged to take action to recover wages and entitlements owed to them.
In particular, we call for the following:
Clarification of the fact that, regardless of any alleged breaches of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth), all workers (including both “lawful non-citizens” and “unlawful non-citizens”) are nevertheless protected by Australia’s workplace laws. This is to encourage migrant workers to report workplace exploitation and to ensure they can enforce their work rights even in cases where they may have breached a visa condition or not had any work rights attached to a valid visa.
The maximum working hours for international students should be abolished, as this limit has all too often been used to exploit students.
A new visa category should be established to give effective whistle-blower protection for migrant workers on temporary visas who make complaints against their employers.
The Assurance Protocol between the Department of Home Affairs and the Fair Work Ombudsman should be expanded and strengthened.
The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) should be amended so as to include protection from discrimination based on visa status.
The Fair Entitlements Guarantee should be extended to all temporary visa holders (as recommended by the Migrant Workers Taskforce).
Australia’s ethnically and linguistically diverse communities – the product of successful and progressive multicultural policies from the past – represent an important national asset. Going forward, we need to better protect newly arrived migrants who are already here (regardless of their visa) and we also need to do a better job of attracting new migrants in the future.
Any new migration strategy will need to be mindful of both of these aims and it will need to balance the potentially competing demands of:
Strengthening our strategic links with other countries (both within our region and beyond, including with the European Union);
Incentivizing skilled migrants with desirable skills to relocate to Australia (with a clear and predictable pathway to permanency);
Continuing to attract international students, working holiday makers and other temporary visa holders, whilst better protecting them from workplace exploitation and doing a better job of achieving greater social cohesion; and
Behaving ethically and demonstrating global leadership with respect to our migration practices.
Comites Victoria & Tasmania