System Message:

Australian Immigration Daily News

Breaking Australian immigration news brought to you by Migration Alliance and associated bloggers.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Categories
    Categories Displays a list of categories from this blog.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Team Blogs
    Team Blogs Find your favorite team blogs here.
  • Login
    Login Login form
Posted by on in General
  • Font size: Larger Smaller
  • Hits: 7215
  • 8 Comments

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison MP - Speech at today's MIA Conference

Minister for Immigration & Border Protection

Scott Morrison

Monday, 21 October 2013

Address to the Migration Institute of Australia National Conference, Canberra

It's a great pleasure to be here again at the MIA conference but in this case in a very different capacity. I am pleased Angela that you have been re-elected as the President of the organisation. Minister Cash and I certainly appreciated the opportunity to work constructively with the MIA and the various other bodies that operate throughout the migration agent community. That was an important process for us as we prepared policies, as we prepared for the task of government that has now been entrusted to us. Congratulations Angela and to your new board members on the MIA, we look forward to working with you in the years ahead.

Can I also acknowledge the Assistant Minister for Immigration, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash here with me today. Particularly when I am talking about Senator Cash, it is true that two ministers are better than one. What you should read in to having an Assistant Minister for Immigration of Senator Cash's standing is our commitment to get it right. To get it right not just in policy but to get it right in implementation because it is in implementation where you spend your days and nights and weekends and all of that period of time. So the implementation of policy and its effective and practical implementation, it's workability, the professionalism that is required, the relationships that need to be established; that is a tone , that is benchmark that I would like to see set for our stewardship of the immigration portfolio.

Policy is all about implementation. People can have all sorts of ideas – some of them good, some of them bad. But a good idea badly implemented becomes a bad idea very quickly. So our focus is on getting things right and getting the implementation together. Senator Cash's responsibilities lie very much at the heart of the visa service delivery elements of the portfolio. As you may have picked up, I'm quite focused at the moment with Operation Sovereign borders and a range of other issues related to that. We wanted to make sure right from the outset that our focus on the day to day delivery of visa services and the working horse nature of the immigration department was in no way diminished by our very serious intent and focus on the border control issues that are currently my responsibilities. So we have got two ministers for immigration effectively. It's a big portfolio, it services the entire country and has offices all around the world doing the job that needs to be done. So that gives a bit of an overview about how Senator Cash and I will be dealing with matters in the portfolio so you may actually see a lot more of Senator Cash when it comes to these issues, particularly when you're sitting down and working through some of the technical issues within your responsibilities, and for your clients and so on. The policy framework and these sorts of things is very much represented at my level to Cabinet.

I want to thank you for inviting me to address your conference this morning as this is my first opportunity to address you as the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.

It is a privilege to serve in this portfolio and there is no doubt that immigration has shaped the Australia we know today. It has made us a stronger Australia and it will make us a stronger Australia in the future.

Robert Menzies called it the 'greatest exercise in nation building for Australia' that his century had ever seen and that remains true in this century also.

I am extremely optimistic about our future as an immigration nation. I am optimistic because immigration has been our past and has forged our present. That optimism is rooted in the reality that we have built this together as a nation.

We are all of us migrants, whether our ancestors came to our shores in 1788 or more recently in 2008 or even since then. For those of us who don't claim a linkage to first Australians, all of us are migrants. This is a theme that I am hoping to develop as Minister. Immigration didn't start after the Second World War. Immigration has been Australia's experience since the modern birthplace of the nation. We all have an immigrant story that we connect to and I think if we can all see ourselves and our heritage and our ancestry along those lines it will much better assist us to connect to each other as Australians, as immigrants with an immigrant heritage and an immigrant history.

In the United States, they have more of that understanding and I think it does help with social cohesion to think about it in these terms. That's not to say that many of us don't have a long ancestry and lineage here in Australia going back hundreds of years. That is true, we do.

But when those ancestors did come, they dealt with all the same challenges that those who come today face. Leaving the place they knew, leaving the culture they knew. Coming to something which is uncertain, having to break into a new economy, a new way of life. To leave baggage behind and pick up new opportunities. Whether you did it in 1788 or you did it last week, the same human challenges present and the great story of immigration in Australia is it is a success. It is an overwhelming success but there are conditions on that success going forward that I will talk about.

One in four Australians were born overseas – one in five of us have at least one parent born overseas. Whether you are a first generation Australian or a sixth generation Australian, whether we became Australians by birth or by pledge, we all share equally in the legacy that we have all inherited from all of those who have gone before us.

Australia has a well-earned reputation as arguably the most successful and cohesive multi-ethnic society in the world today. There are many reasons that we can be confident this will continue into the future but we cannot take it for granted.

I'd like to spend some time with you this morning outlining the Coalition's approach in particular to skilled migration, education and Significant Investor Visas.

But whether we are talking about managing our Refugee and Humanitarian programme, student visas, investor visas, parents or partners or employer sponsored visas, protecting the integrity of our immigration programme is critical to our continued success.

Importantly, an immigration programme cannot be successful without the strong support of the Australian people.

The Howard Government ran an immigration programme that Australians had confidence in. Our longest serving Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock introduced reforms to sharpen the programme's economic focus, reduce the size of the family-reunion component and restricted new migrant access to welfare.

Australia's experience and indeed our success as an immigration nation over time has been based fundamentally on our commitment to the economic participation of migrants at all levels. We have always valued the involvement of migrants in our economy and under the Coalition this will continue.

During the Howard years the percentage of Australians who were concerned about immigration levels being too high almost halved, from more than two thirds to just over one third. Over the same period our permanent immigration intake doubled.

Those who had come had the skills to find employment. Over a decade to 2005/2006 unemployment for skilled migrants fell from 9% to just 3%, better than the national average. Labour force participation rates were also higher.

On our borders, the Howard Government stopped the boats, while resettling about 150 000 Refugee and Humanitarian entrants. We had a proud record of welcoming people from more than 140 nations and over ten years, the Howard Government provided more than 52 800 offshore Special Humanitarian visas, with an average of more than 5000 places each year. When I took on the portfolio the other day, the number of places was in the hundreds that under the previous Government setting would be provided for Special Humanitarian visas, which is a disgrace.

This is what you can achieve when Australians have confidence in their government to run an immigration programme with stability and integrity. The Abbott Government is committed to running such a programme that the Australian people can have confidence in once again.

But how do we achieve that?

There is much work to be done to clean up the mess that was created by the previous government. You will have heard a lot from me in recent weeks about Operation Sovereign Borders and the efforts that are underway to stop the boats. I want to be very clear. There is still a long way to go on this task. While we have seen a significant decline over the first month of Operation Sovereign Borders, we are assuming nothing, we are reading nothing into that and we remain fully committed to the deployment of the full policy measures that we took to the election.

That is why the Coalition has brought together Immigration and Border Protection under one department because policy and operations in these areas go hand in hand.

If you want to know how much a government values immigration, look at their border protection policies because strong border protection polices create the platform for strong and successful immigration programmes. That is why we are so committed to strong borders.

They are inextricably linked, border protection and immigration. You cannot pretend to control your immigration programme if you are not in control of your borders. I've made it very clear to my Department that my first responsibility as Immigration Minister is to enforce our immigration laws, not to run a welfare programme. That is my first responsibility as Immigration Minister. We have immigration laws, those laws need to be upheld and they need to be enforced. The people who sit in this room are key partners in ensuring that we achieve that goal.

The Coalition is committed to stopping those who come the wrong way and we are taking back control of our borders and our migration programme as a result, whether it's taking that back from criminal people smugglers or anyone else who wants to have a crack at our borders or our immigration programme.

And we are encouraging people to come the right way, which people in this room are involved in doing every single day. People who wish to make a contribution to our nation, to our society and our economy from day one. They're the people we want to come.

Disorderly immigration through illegal arrivals who violate the integrity of our migration programme damages community support and confidence in that programme.

And a government that constantly changes the rules and moves the goalposts for visa holders and employers only creates uncertainty. That uncertainty discourages foreign investors, skilled workers and students from making the decision to work or study or invest in Australia. The integrity of our immigration policies and the capacity of our systems to ensure compliance are more important now than ever.

As a Government, we have a responsibility in the way we shape and administer policy in this area. A responsibility to support a robust programme and a responsibility to provide resources to uphold the laws.

The Abbott Government will be strong on immigration laws on our borders, in the community and in the workplace.

But we will also achieve this by working in partnership with you and with industry to lift the standards, to strive for professional best practise that secures sound outcomes for our programme. Whether as policy makers, as migration agents or as migrants, we have a shared responsibility to uphold a programme that is robust, that has integrity and consistency – to hold each other to account to the highest standard of ethics and professional practise.

The Australian government has a strong history and proven working relationship with the Migration Institute of Australia and I very much look forward to continuing that, as I'm sure Minister Cash does, as we work side by side in the months and years ahead. The professionalism and expertise of your members remains important to the delivery of our migration programmes and their integrity.

In skilled migration, I believe that Australia's success as an immigration nation is based fundamentally on our commitment to the economic participation of migrants at all levels. Our migration programme has delivered social and economic strength, prosperity and unity; helping create a strong economy but also sustaining our strong, cohesive society.

The continued economic participation of migrants should be our main objective.

We want to bring people to Australia who add value – who have a real go and make a contribution to our society. It's very much the principle of a fair go for those who have a go. A key reason for our success which continues to set us apart from other countries is that we receive migrants principally and strongly in our skilled migration programme. This programme will continue to be the key driver of our immigration future.

The cornerstone of the Howard Government was our commitment to skilled migration and we will return to that foundation. Over the course of that government, the percentage of skilled migrants in the permanent programme rose from the less than 30 percent under the Keating Government to almost 70 percent at the end of the Howard Government.

The primary purpose of our immigration programme is economic, not social, in our view. Immigration is an economic policy, not a welfare policy.

Today, Australia's migrants have the second lowest rate of unemployment amongst OECD member nations in 2011, just behind Israel. That's an extraordinary result.

In late 2011, Australia's migrants had an unemployment rate of 5 per cent—a similar rate of unemployment as those born in Australia. Most skilled migrants have even better employment outcomes with their unemployment rates below the national average.

Traditionally, we have structured skilled migration around our permanent programme, made up of the points tested skilled migration stream and the demand driven employer sponsored stream. Around 68 per cent of people migrating to Australia permanently come under the Permanent Skilled Programme and it is a critical focus of ours that we keep it that way, if not even higher. That is why the Coalition is committed to ensuring the proportion of skilled migrants does not fall below two thirds of our overall programme.

Australia's permanent employer sponsored migration programme plays a pivotal role in ensuring that businesses right across the country, regardless of where their workplace is, can find skilled workers to fill genuine vacancies – and I stress genuine vacancies – where they emerge.

A business that has had to shut its doors because it can't source the skilled workers it needs employs no one. Employs no one at all. There is a link where this is done properly, and I stress when it is done properly, where the employment benefit for Australians from these programmes is positive. It is a net addition to Australian employment prospects when done properly.

The employer sponsored programme shows significant benefit to Australia, with migrant employment rates of 98 per cent on any given year—the best performing element of the programme by far.

More skilled people now arrive on a temporary visa and then having proven themselves and decided they'd like to stay in Australia, they find an employer who is willing to back them. These are exactly the productive migrants we want to encourage to stay. They have worked in our country. They have paid taxes from day one. They have improved their language skills through engagement in the workplace and in the community and off the clock and they are living and enjoying the Australian way of life they came to this country to enjoy, to experience, to be part of and to contribute to.

While the balance in the Skilled Migration Programme is shifting to employer sponsorship, non-sponsored migrants who have well developed human capital attributes are still important too of course. Particularly for the small business sector, where employers may not always be in a position to use those programmes and to meet the obligations of those programmes.

Independent skilled migration ensures that there is a pool of skilled workers available more generally to fill shortages in the economy where they develop and cannot be filled from within the Australian workforce.

The Coalition has always approached this issue from the starting point that wherever possible, jobs should be filled from within the Australian workforce. That is our clear commitment and that is our goal.

But where those skills are not available and that can be demonstrated, migration can and should play a vital role in supporting Australian business and creating Australian jobs. It provides the labour and importantly can facilitate the process of getting workers out to the sites where they are actually needed, whether in major projects particularly increasingly infrastructure projects or in other places around the country.

The current points test system was built on the bedrock of skilled migration reforms introduced under the Howard Government. These reforms culminated in the major structural reforms announced in early 2007, by then-Minister Kevin Andrews, and included the rationalisation of skilled visa subclasses and a focus on stronger English language skills and relevant work experience and tertiary qualifications.

The skills and attributes that intending skilled migrants require, as specified in the points test, retain the focus on key attributes such as skilled employment experience and English language proficiency.

I will continue to review these attributes to ensure the skilled migrants coming to Australia can fully participate in our economy and contribute to the socially cohesive, multi-ethnic society that we celebrate in this country.

One of the most disappointing things I have seen in this portfolio having served in it in a shadow capacity for almost four years was the end to the bipartisan consensus that was brought about earlier this year when the former Government embarked on outrageous attacks on skilled migration and demonising rhetoric against skilled migrants to Australia.

This was very disappointing and I note the new Shadow Immigration Minister has indicated he's looking for more bipartisanship in the area of immigration. I would welcome an end to the Labor party's attack on skilled migrants. He could start there.

You will not hear from this Government that migrants take Australians' jobs. You won't hear that from this Government.

In relation to the 457 visa programme, we made our position very clear in the previous Parliament and you will hear more from me and Minister Cash in coming months on this front as we work through these issues.

But I do not think there is any doubt where the Coalition stands in support of skilled migration in this country.

Of course you know, as I do, fine-tuning our programme and visa streams and evaluating the effectiveness of compliance measures is a constant process. It's a never ending process that arises as we work through the issues associated with implementation. That reflection is critical to ensure the generous opportunities we offer as a nation are not abused or taken for granted.

So while you hear me say very clearly the Coalition Government under Tony Abbott is supportive of skilled migration, and has been consistent in thick and thin through various attacks particularly from the previous government when we were in opposition, I say this; if you abuse it, then you can expect me in my first responsibility for law enforcement in immigration to be as tough on that as people smugglers find that I will be tough on our borders. Because I know if the 457 programme is abused, it will be undermined and its critical value to Australia will be diminished. I want to protect it and I'm asking you and I'm asking industry and employers to help the government protect this vital asset for the Australian economy by making sure it is used properly in the right circumstances and it is not abused.

There is a difference between nuanced and effectively targeted law enforcement and heavy handed regulation and red tape that stifles business productivity, ingenuity and creativity, which is how I would have characterised the laws the former Government brought in earlier this year.

Temporary skilled migration when it is managed well under a process with integrity and clarity not only helps employers and businesses fill short to medium-term skill shortages that are genuine, it creates Australian jobs.

457s have been a mainstay of Australia's skilled migration programme since their inception in 1996. The programme is flexible and responds to the economic cycle in line with employer demand. The Coalition has always approached this issue from the perspective that Australia's migration programme is intended as a supplement, not a substitute, to the Australian workforce and there are particular challenges at the moment with changes in the resources sector and the level of peak employment that's been experienced there and in other parts of the construction sector where people who were working in those roles are returning to their suburbs and communities around Australia and are seeking employment back in those places. Many of those jobs when they were away working somewhere else would have been taken up by others who may have accessed this programme. So that is an environment we need to be very, very conscious of and the government is sensitive to those issues out in the community as we speak. That's why the 457 programme has to be managed carefully and sensitively with integrity.

If you run your immigration programme properly then immigration creates jobs. That is our history, that is our experience and that is our future.

It was that very notion that Prime Minister Tony Abbott conveyed as Opposition Leader some months ago that 457s in that respect can continue to provide a mainstay for our programme. That's what we were talking about.

People coming to the country temporarily initially, proving themselves and then making an application for permanent residency. This is a positive pathway that hands the control of the decision to a sovereign country and these are the aspects we will continue to pursue. That pathway from temporary to permanent if managed well has great opportunities for this country. It is probably one of the best ways to manage the integrity of the programme and to ensure that those who do get permanent residency are well suited to it, well qualified for it. They have earned it. They have demonstrated that, rather than the simple processing of applying one day offshore and then turning up some months later in Australia. My preference is the other pathway because it gives greater surety around not just the national security and integrity issues that are so relevant but also the economic and social participation issues that are vital to social and economic cohesion.

What's important is that we understand, both as policy makers and those working in this field, that there is though a temporary labour market within Australia in how we deal with this issue. There are at any given time around one million temporary entrants to the country living here in Australia, many of whom have work rights. They are students, working holiday makers, they're 457 visa holders and various elements of these programmes have different protections which are attached to them.

There is an existing temporary labour market within Australia and the role of the government is to ensure we have the appropriate controls and processes around those programmes to prevent against abuse, to ensure the ongoing integrity of that programme and also to ensure that those who are migrants in that situation are not vulnerable themselves.

The answer to that is not more regulation to tie business or practitioners up in more union red tape but to have more effective enforcement methodologies and practises and resources.

Critically it is about recognising that unless you can provide a proper pathway then there is the great risk that people will find themselves in the temporary labour market illegally and they will be subject to very serious vulnerabilities. And we need to be aware of that. To pretend that there is not some sort of unofficial temporary labour market out there operating in Australia today is naïve. It exists. And we need to ensure that we are running a proper process to have people moving through a proper programme that is connected with a legitimate end that exists within the economy, and are not putting migrants or the community more generally at risk.

We need to find and encourage pursuit of legitimate pathways with appropriate controls for temporary migration that prevent the abuse of programmes designed for other important purposes and meet the labour needs of an economy that the Abbott Government wants to see expand.

On the Significant Investor Visas, the Coalition's plans for continuing this programme is a positive one and a strong one. When this programme was announced by then Minister Bowen, he was the second of the four Labor Immigration Ministers in the last government, it was designed to attract migrants with successful businesses and investment experience. It was scheduled to commence in November last year and on paper, it was good policy. We supported it before I think Minister Bowen even sat down from delivering his speech. We thought it was a good initiative, we think it's good policy but again good policy poorly implemented often turns into a bad idea.

Potentially the scheme could and should and I still think can attract millions if not billions of overseas capital investment into projects that will stimulate our economy and create jobs and capital for hundreds of Australians and many small businesses.

But where commitment and delivery were critical to get this programme up and running to send a positive message to potential investors and participants in the programme, the implementation simply fell away as we saw so many times from the previous government.

It took six months for the first visa to actually be granted on 3 May 2013 - about a year after it was first announced. In spite of the fact that during that time there had been 435 expressions of interest for this visa. 279 people were invited to apply and 171 primary applications were lodged.

It happened so frequently under the previous government. So committed to the announcement but under committed to the delivery and the implementation. You won't find that from this government. You won't find the big announcements. What you will find is the implementation and the work horse in the government that is getting on and just working through the issues and the details. It's not our job to provide a running commentary on our daily activities; it's our job to do our job. And in your area in particular, that detail is what we mentioned before that Minister Cash will be focusing very acutely on to make sure we can get that working.

This programme was largely sabotaged from the outset I think by poor implementation. I think the criteria for how a Significant Investor visa should work needs to have some attention applied to it. It has been described as 'vague and unnecessarily prescriptive', creating further confusion and uncertainty in the market place. The proposed turnaround time of nine months for the Significant Investor Visa under the former government I believe is far too long for a programme such as this.

It is no wonder that potential investors – and remember this is a programme where people are putting $5 million into our economy - no wonder they are starting to get cold feet and look to alternatives elsewhere.

Effectively what I'm saying is the programme needs to be rebooted. We need to get it back and ensure the processes are right and the criteria is as it should be and that is the work we are going through at the moment. We will say more once we are in a position to implement those things, not at the outset.

We recognise there are significant implementation issues that are currently holding up the progress of this programme but we don't want to sit and talk, we want to get it done. We will send a clear message that we are open for business on this visa. We will put in place the assessment capacity to back that up once we have the system rebooted and remodelled. We will look to review the investment criteria for this programme, with a view to having a more flexible approach that could see more of the investment capital attracted under that programme being available to more small and medium sized businesses including entrepreneurial start-ups.

Such an approach would also seek to create the possibility of a broader range of what I'd term ‘compliant investments', a dual path if you like – what is a compliant investment and then handling immigration matters separately, approved in advance and then parallel to the visa process.

We should also look at this programme not as a way to secure $5 million bucks – that's not what it's about – by stapling a visa to an investment product. If people are interested in that, I'm not. If people are going to pursue the programme from that mindset, they will not have the enthusiastic cooperation from this government or myself or Minister Cash because that's not our objective.

The $5 million invested under the Significant Investor visa should be the first of hundreds of millions that would flow from someone making this decision to come and live and settle and become part of our community and an Australian citizen. The $5 million should be the appropriate hurdle for someone making such a decision and having access to this programme if we only look at it from the short term perspective of that initial investment then I think we've missed the point of the opportunity of this programme. That's not where I see its future. I'm not really after their money. I'm after them. I want them to come and migrate to Australia and to bring their experience, their knowledge, their networks, their families, their wealth and come and establish that here in our country to become part of this country's future. That's what we're looking for.

These people we're seeking to attract to Australia have demonstrated enormous entrepreneurial success. They are wealth generators and in Australia we welcome and we celebrate wealth generators in this country because they generate wealth that is pumped into our economy and provides benefits right across the economy for all Australians.

We think people who create business, people who risk their capital, people who go out there every day and create jobs off their own effort and off their own enterprise is what we need to see more of in this country and certainly within our immigration programme.

This programme is geared to bring high net worth individuals who will transfer their wealth to Australia over a generation. And we need to look at this programme in generational terms because the applicants are. This is an intergenerational move for the applicants and certainly the applicants I'm interested in attracting. This requires the scheme to be flexible with the residence requirements of the principal applicant who will need to spend their time overseas predominantly running their global businesses.

Where we need to focus though is on the residence requirements for the secondary applicants and family members of the principal applicant because we're looking to see that family anchor themselves here in Australia. Their kids going to Australian schools and universities, their kids taking over those businesses and moving the axis if you like or the centre of gravity of their family's global commercial operations to this country to become an Aussie company and Australia providing that opportunity for them to make their international family business an Australian family business.

To be successful this programme will require a dedicated assessment team and that I'm sure will have implications for the fees that are attached to the programme. I think we also need to ensure that through those fee arrangements we can put the dedicated resources in place to deal with what are quite sophisticated and forensic at times financial analysis and review of the applicants that can be done at a high level of skill and done in a timely manner. We can move more quickly but we cannot move more quickly at the expense of the integrity of the programme.

We can have a more sophisticated and pro-active engagement programme to ensure these measures are delivering on what we are trying to achieve. This means we need to be working with the business community, with the migration agent community and drawing on the contacts within our own ethnic communities across Australia to identify and target suitable applicants for the programme, whether it's in China, India or the Middle East. Such an approach should link in with our broader trade and investment strategies in the regions and I look forward to having that collaborative approach with the Minister for Trade and Investment, the Hon Andrew Robb.

An Immigration Minister in many respects I see as a little like a recruiter for your local sports team. It is about trying to get the people on our team that make us a stronger team as a country and principally that is in the area of economic participation.

That is also true about the values of the programme when it comes to overseas students. The Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, reminds me on an almost daily basis and the Assistant Minister as well, of the value of international education to our economy. But we need no convincing, we know it to be true from our own home states and our own involvement in this portfolio.

International education is our fourth largest export, contributing more than $15 billion in export income to our economy in 2012. We recognise the strong economic and cultural contribution of our international education sector and we remain committed to continuing to support its growth by facilitating the visa process for genuine international students.

At the industry's peak in 2009 there were almost half a million international students studying in Australia.

The Coalition has a strong record of supporting this sector which grew strongly under the Howard government. We believe international students should come to Australia with the bona fide intention to study in some of the world's finest education institutions, not as a backdoor to a permanent migration outcome. We're interested in selling education, not visas and I know that is the widespread view not only within the migration agent community but within the international education sector as well. We want to compete on education, not a comparison test on visa classes.

The Coalition supported the changes made by Labor in 2009 to tighten up visa arrangements and decouple student visas from permanent migration to protect the integrity of our programme and the quality of our sector. But clumsy and heavy-handed visa changes coincided with a strong Australian dollar, intense global competition for international students and weak global economic conditions. This all contributed to an immediate and a devastating impact on the education services industry in our country. In 2009/10 the number of student visas granted plunged by almost 50,000.

The damage was particularly severe on vocational education and training providers where unfortunately the measures failed to distinguish between good and bad providers and everyone was burnt. Thousands of jobs were lost in the industry and the economy took a significant hit.

I am constantly reminded of that example when I think about visa integrity issues across the system and particularly when I think about 457s. If the system gets out of hand then of course you have to take quite serious measures and when you undertake those measures they can often fall on both the good and the bad when it comes to those devastating impacts. The best way we can avoid a repeat of what happened in the international education industry is to ensure an industry wide partnership focus between government and industry and the agent community to protect the community of the programme. Because if we fail then you have to take fairly drastic action which hurts everybody. That is why I will always be very mindful, as the Assistant Minister will be as well, of ensuring and protecting the integrity of the programme so we don't find ourselves in the situation that presented some years ago in the international education sector.

The Knight Review in 2011 made some helpful suggestions as to how to redress some of the damage done and the Coalition has been supportive of the directions outlined. We particularly support measures to strengthen student bona fides checks, the use of modern risk based and streamlined processing of low risk visa applications and post study work arrangements. These are positive steps which are helping the industry bounce back from the damage done and helping restore Australia's attractiveness and competitiveness as a study destination.

What the student visa industry needs after a rough six years is stability from the government. Consistency. Certainty. Adult Government.

The Coalition will provide a much-needed period of stability in this area to ensure the industry can plan for the future with confidence.

We will not support measures that attempt to use study in Australia as a back door to permanent residency but we will always promote high quality in education services and a high level of integrity in the programme.

We intend to invite a group of 22 low immigration risk non-university higher education providers to participate in Streamlined Visa Processing. Similar to the arrangements currently in place for universities, students enrolled in a bachelor, masters, doctoral degree or eligible exchange programme at these 22 non-university providers would potentially be able to apply for their student visas under the SVP. This will provide a simpler and faster visa process for eligible students.

We will do this one step at a time. We are not going to promise you the world and deliver you a peanut. We will work through this consistently and get the job done.

Students who are not eligible for streamlined processing are assessed under the Assessment Level framework assigned to their passport country and the education sector in the country they intend to study. The higher the AL, the greater the evidentiary requirements that must be met by the applicant, including English language skills, financial capacity and academic history. We are currently considering options to simplify elements of the assessment level framework which would benefit registered education provides and enable them to better compete internationally based on the quality of their education product.

The Coalition will work hard to promote the high quality of Australia's education to prospective students in an increasingly competitive international environment and we will be doing that hand in glove with the Minister for Education.

As I conclude, I would like to make one plea to those in this room today from the Migration Institute. You are our partners in ensuring integrity of the programme. Both government and the sector need to be good partners to each other. We need to work harder on our systems and our processes and our engagement and stability and certainty. The sector needs to work on its own internal processes and its own internal accountability and its reputation, which you are doing under the leadership of the MIA and other organisations and I would encourage you to keep going down that path. To work with the MARA, to work with the structures that are there but also to continue to put in place your own structures, your own standards and to ensure that you are dealing with those who don't measure up to your standards.

Your reputation is in your hands, the government's reputation is in its hands. Let's focus on the things we each can do to improve the standing of both and I think that would greatly influence the level of cooperation and partnership that we have. And it is for this great benefit; the great benefit an immigration programme that Australians can be proud of once again, that they can have confidence in, that they will support.

If there's one thing I hope to achieve as Immigration Minister and I know the Assistant Minister shares this goal, is that in three years from now we can speak of that confidence having returned.

Thank you.

 

Last modified on
Rate this blog entry:
2

Comments

  • Liana - Allan
    Liana - Allan Monday, 21 October 2013

    We need to put in place our own structures and our own standards and deal with those who don't measure up. That unfortunately starts with the MARA. Yes we can work with them but not in the current way. Things must change.

  • Guest
    Robert K Chelliah Monday, 21 October 2013

    The Minister sounds politically correctt t when he says migration is not a welfare program and goes on to say how family reunion programme was reduced by the Howard government. This is not acceptable to many Australians whose family are split. Migrants have contributed to the wealth of this nation and they have strong social and psychological need to bring their relatives to Australia. Hence that program need to be revisited and fine tuned to meet the aspirations of some Australians.

    Secondly, the SIV programme failed at the very source country, mainly in China due to the monopoly and control of the ill (miss) informed local Chinese agents who would not let the Australian MARA registered agents anywhere near the market source. The Minister needs to take up some sort of quasi recognition of MARA registered agents with the Chinese government,

  • Christopher Levingston
    Christopher Levingston Monday, 21 October 2013

    I have just read the Minister's speech and I look forward to a sensible, coherent and consultative relationship with the him and Senator Cash. As they say the "proof of the pudding is in the eating" and it is good to hear that he is onto DIAC dragging the chain on the SIV. What a disgrace. At a recent CPD I heard an ex DIAC Officer suggest that the failure to thrive evidenced in the implementation of the SIV was as a result of DIAC "not liking" this pathway.

    I don't think I would be telling these "investors" what they want. I think it might be useful to understand the drivers of this particular subset of candidate. Perhaps we need to ask them rather than tell them how lucky they are to be eligible to, perhaps maybe, one day, living at the edge of the pacific rim. Australia has a lot to offer but it also needs to be realistic about the opportunities and the limitations of population and location. Our competitors in this space also have a lot to offer.

    I agree that the quick fix on this is to get DIBP out of the way. They are way too slow and process driven, constantly spooked by imaginary problems. Actually, it is just embarrassing. If the future has a key word it is "engagement".

    RMAs with the language skills to effectively communicate and to relate to and to understand their clients is the key. Those RMAs are the drivers for the selling of and the implementation of the migration program. RMAs are on the whole diligent and responsible professionals who can be relied upon to get the job done. We can't do that with DIBP (the other guys) are let to run amok "fixing" and tweaking a migration program that ain't broke. I don't think this Minister and the Honourable Senator are the types who will sit on their hands and let DIBP run the show.

    Now....what about IELTS testing for RMAs? Lets fix that so we can communicate with the market place. After that what about the OMARA/DIBP conflict of interest. Lets meet shall we?

  • Guest
    James Tuesday, 22 October 2013

    Hi Christopher,
    Do you have any updates regarding of IELTS testing for RMAS?
    Thanks,
    James

  • Guest
    Murray Rivers Tuesday, 22 October 2013

    How magnanimous of the MA to give such kudos to the MIA National Conference, at which there were over 300 paid up members who attended. A wonderful event it was too. Keep your eye on next year's. Bigger and better than ever

  • Guest
    Murray Rivers Tuesday, 22 October 2013

    How magnanimous of the MA to give such kudos to the MIA National Conference, at which there were over 300 paid up members who attended. A wonderful event it was too. Keep your eye on next year's. Bigger and better than ever

  • Liana - Allan
    Liana - Allan Tuesday, 22 October 2013

    We are really pleased the event was a success. What is good for the MIA is good for the entire profession.

  • Guest
    Rick O'Shea Tuesday, 22 October 2013

    And the things you find out at conferences. Very interesting. Loose lips bring ships.

Leave your comment

Guest Thursday, 02 October 2014

Immigration blog

Asian economies will pull top migrants away from Australia
A cumbersome and slow migration process in Austral...
Continue Reading...
Australia faces a labour shortfall of 2.3 million workers by 2030.
The Australian paradox is that high unemployment l...
Continue Reading...
Another new country added to the work and holiday visa program
Australia's Working Holiday Maker visa program whi...
Continue Reading...
The return of Temporary Protection Visas
The Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has introd...
Continue Reading...