Migration policy has always been at the forefront of Australian politics but interestingly not much was debated on Immigration at this election with both parties choosing to not give it much attention.
What is certain is that this weekend’s election has brought a new government to Australia. It is not yet clear whether the Australian Labor Party will lead with a majority and during its election campaign, it did not release any hard and fast policies on migration. However, it did signal that the system needs an overhaul. Whilst we await for the new Minister for Immigration to be appointed and the portfolio to take shape, we know that Labor’s former spokeswoman for Home Affairs, Kristina Keneally will not be the Minister for Immigration as she lost her parliamentary seat of Fowler.
Permanent vs Temporary
Labour has stated:
Our new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese signaled Labor may consider granting foreign workers permanent residency:
If you have people who are coming here temporarily, year after year, spending month after month here, why don’t we give them a bit of certainty and actually allow people to stay who are making a contribution to the country? Mr Albanese told the National Farmers Federation conference in April.
In its Australian Labor Party’s National Platform, it stated:
Labor will ensure Australia’s migration favours permanent over temporary migration, to create a nation of people with equal rights and a shared interest in our national success.
On temporary migration, Labor’s priority is to ensure that job opportunities are offered to local workers first and that temporary migration will never be used as a means to undercut local wages, conditions and training opportunities. Acknowledging that skilled temporary migrants can help Australian businesses to thrive but will only be used where a verifiable skill shortage exists.
Labour Market Testing
It appears the Labour Market Testing rules will remain and if anything, expanded:
Labor in Government will legislate to ensure that temporary skilled visas are utilised only where suitably qualified Australian residents and citizens are not available and cannot be trained in a reasonable time. Labor supports the retention and improvement of labour market testing to protect the legitimate interests of Australian workers. Labor will develop a tripartite process with unions, businesses and Government to support this process.
It also signaled that it will not entertain further labour market testing exemptions under newly created International Trade Agreements.
Labor emphasized that any process to obtain a Labour Agreement must be thorough, genuine, with effective consultation with trade unions and have rigorous oversight applied to its operation. Labour Agreements must only be used to address acute and temporary skill shortages across regional Australia. Importantly, overseas workers should only be a temporary need, not part of permanent business model.
For Labour Agreements, it indicated that Labor will increase the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold and enforce an approval process that requires the Department of Home Affairs to consult with trade unions and apply greater scrutiny and compliance measures against employers. Labour Agreements must be assessed regularly, with the skills and training of Australians focussed on ending labour shortages and employing Australians.
The government states it will ensure migrants, including refugees, are not economically exploited and have full access to the relevant workplace rights and protections.
Working Holiday Visa Program
We have seen the Working Holiday Visa program not only expanded to other counties but also used as a measure to fill skill shortages with the relaxation of employment conditions. Labor stated it will, as part of a broader review of the purpose and structure of Australia’s migration program, reform the Working Holiday Maker program to better protect the rights and conditions of visa holders as well as assessing its impact on regional labour markets and industries.
Labor stated it will reform the regional migration program and encourage skilled migrants to take up jobs in rural and regional locations only where skill gaps exist. In a bid to foster bolder relations with the Pacific following the inking of the China-Solomon Islands security pact, Labor also says it would reform the Pacific mobility scheme and create a new engagement visa to encourage more migration.
Labor will encourage migrations to become citizens and remove unnecessary and unintended barriers to citizenship, providing a clear and efficient pathway to citizenship.
On its Asylum Seeker policy Labour stated it backed the Operation Sovereign Borders, which means it supports third-country resettlement of asylum seekers and boat turnbacks “where safe to do so” but it committed to scrapping Temporary Protection Visas.
Whatever new migration program is announced, it will be as important as ever to ensure that your business is fully compliant and seen as a model employer. If you have not done so recently, we would strongly urge all sponsors to conduct a detailed audit of all visa holder employees and to ensure that company policies and processes comply with all migration laws and best practice.
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